"I joined straight from school and was in the Royal Marines just short of 16 years; I specialised in mortars. When I left full time service, I joined the reserves which subsidised me going through university. Being in the reserves made it easier going from military life to a civilian life because it was like coming out of the sea slowly instead of jumping straight out.
There’s responsibility in the military, don’t get me wrong, a lot of responsibility, but the basics of life i.e. bills, food, shops, mortgages, you have those things in the military but they don’t seem to have as much emphasis on your life as they do as a civilian. I don’t ever recall worrying about a food shop, a bill or my mortgage when I was in service, but when I left, even now it’s constantly ‘how much is this food shop, have I got enough money for my gas bill’. The contrast is just chalk and cheese.
Things like a water bill was a big deal, a catalyst for me losing my temper once. My wife was instrumental in helping me make the transition, she’s quite grounded and methodical. For me, transition has taken 3-4 years to think ‘yeah I’m ok, I’m comfortable now, I’m a civilian, as it were’. I probably applied for over 100 jobs I think, and I wasn’t successful. My wife was fed up of me moaning, she saw the job I have now and helped me with the application form. Once I had that civilian input, I was successful.
Living in the moment
I suppose in the first year and a half, I didn’t control my emotions very well, I think if I’m being brutally honest. I still lived that culture of the military, so drinking a lot, going out every weekend. I didn’t have any children at the time either so it was quite easy for me to be irresponsible. I suppose I was a 32 year old person behaving as an 18 year old. It became apparent pretty quick when you behave like that at that age, you look a bit stupid really.
The martial arts is something that I’ve done for a long time anyway and it was just an element of fitness so I think, I’m going to say a broad statement, most people who join the military probably enjoy an element of risk taking, that buzz, the adrenalin. I think, now, I get that camaraderie, it’s a group of people who have a similar goal, which always helps. We train hard and we do enjoy the social side of things, so it’s almost a military type environment without completely being engulfed in that life. I think the humour’s very, probably not dark, but it’s certainly darker than what you’d get away with in an office.
I think that it gives an opportunity to just blow out every now and then. I suppose I look at it as putting two fingers up to the world, it probably sounds wrong but to a lot of people who train like I train they would understand…. people in the military would understand. It’s sometimes nice just to punch someone. People don’t want to hear that but it’s the reality. If you want to punch a bag, punch a bag, but the buzz comes from being punched back as well. I never really detached myself that much from the civilian world, maybe my transition was slightly easier through my martial arts training, I always had that, that connection with the civilian world.
I actually find that the respect isn’t automatically assumed because of a person’s position in civvy street. Respect is earned and I find civilians understand that concept better than military people, having experienced my life now. In the military, if I’m a stranger to a person of rank I’ve never met before, they’d just assume I’d respect them because of their rank, but I’ve not come across that in the civilian world.
Being a civilian, you’re making decisions every single day. With the children, I’m constantly making decisions and I worry if I’ve made the right decision and the consequences of those decisions. I never had that in the military, pretty much from day 1 in training, decisions are being made for you - I was told where to go, where to be, what we were doing. I could look at a forecast and it would tell me what I was doing for the next 3-6 months. The only time we made decisions was in a very hostile environment, then you’re making a decision on a two pence piece, it has to be made there and then and that was it, it was made.
Being a veteran
I don’t like the word veteran, if I’m honest, and I don’t declare myself as a veteran. There are days in the year such as the corps' birthday and remembrance day, we will come out and we’re proud of we’ve done but it tends to be two days a year and that’s it, it’s boxed off. I don’t live every day as a veteran, I am a person and then a couple of days a year, I’m a person who served. I’m proud of it but it doesn’t define me as a person. I am a person who served, I’m not a veteran.
A chap I served with who lives in my home town, is a friend of mine, I’ve know him for 21 years now, he’d been outside for about 4 or 5 years so he became a closer friend and he’d mock everything. So if I was moaning about the trivial things, he’d say ‘get a grip of yourself, it’s life mate, this is just what it is’. So I did have that mentor but it wasn’t like I’d chosen him, it just inadvertently happened and he was just someone I’d go to. So I’d probably encourage other people if they could, not speak to people who were still serving because they just see it all as a big joke but someone who’s left and done their transition, yes, I’d probably people to reach out to them and have a chat."