Civilian life vs Military Life

By Karen Burton I often hear from other civilians that folks in the military "have it made". But do they really? As a civilian working in a military world, I see that both sides have its advantages and disadvantages. We all have the same concerns; will our families be provided for? Will we be healthy? Will our children have the same advantages as others?Some people think that members of the Canadian Forces are over paid. As a civilian we are paid for a regular work day and accordingly to labour laws, entitled to overtime pay, shift premium pay, etc. As a military member you are expected to be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. I for one know that my employer wouldn't be able to pay me enough to take on that responsibility. There is something to be said about going home every night or knowing when you book your vacation time you don't have to worry about the possibility of being called away to build sand bag dykes or be sent off to a war zone. Another worry of many is our health. As a civilian, we either pay out of pocket or sign into a group benefit package to cover dental and extended health procedures for ourselves and our family members. Military members have the benefit of a full team of doctors, dentists, physiotherapists; you name it to look after their bodies to ensure they are fit to defend our country. Medical services are often accessible on base and when they have to travel, that can also be arranged through their unit. But what about the military members families? Family members only receive a portion of these expenses covered and are not able to access the same resources as their spouses. On a base like Shilo, that means that the families are travelling into Brandon or Winnipeg. Having recently undergone a series of physio appointments, I know first hand how time consuming this can be as well as costly if you are paying for childcare (which is not eligible for most group health benefits). If asked what the best benefit of the military is, many will probably answer that it's the job security. A soldier does not have to worry about getting fired; they bring home a guaranteed pay check that does not depend on hours. In the civilian world, even garnering a job doesn't guarantee a pay check. However, a soldier can't quit his job if he doesn't like it. A civilian is free to leave their job at will.As a civilian, your family is usually separate from your work. As a soldier, your family is large part of the military as well. Only a military wife will know the acronyms like LFWA and BSM that are constantly thrown around. Only a military child will tell you, "My daddy's in Afghanistan" without as much as a blink. There are many things about life in the civilian world that many take for granted, such as seeing your children grow and the differences and personality of everything around you. The most important aspect of civilian life that military personnel miss out on is their family. Your family is a part of you, and most people require the support of their families to survive. Soldiers who are deployed can miss months or years of their family's lives. Civilians likely take for granted waking each morning to see their baby boy grow a little larger, whereas someone in the military might leave an infant on assignment, and come back to a walking, talking toddler. From my view looking out, both lives have their advantages and their disadvantages. The key for me is to accept the differences and take this life for what it's meant to be. We all chose our destiny, I am just glad there are soldiers and their families out there that have chosen to make my life a little safer. Karen Burton is the Outreach and Information Coordinator at the Shilo Military Family Resource Centre.

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