Basic Training Continued...

I believe that the greatest lesson any person can be taught is the extremes to which you can push yourself, both mentally and physically. This realization can come about in many different ways but usually, in the form of a challenge. Whether you place yourself there or life puts you in the situation without choice, challenge makes us stronger. In reality, it teaches you exactly who you are. Although I have received lots of support from other military members, there are certainly a few who feel that because I have not deployed, I don’t necessarily have any business writing about the military as a whole because to them, I have not fully experienced all that the military is. I am, however, of the firm opinion that everyone in the military is part of the cog that makes the wheels turn. Those at home support those abroad and vica versa. I am comforted by the fact that I made the commitment to the Forces and that is enough for me to sleep soundly at night, knowing I made the contribution to my country. We all have our own military experience, each a gift of it’s own and each as important as the next. The final week of our basic training course is completed in the field of St. Jean, in the dead of summer, in delicious 40 degree heat. We were walking an average of 20 Km a day, carrying 20 pounds of gear, and every one of those 7 days felt like it would never end. We started at 5 am and finished around midnight, carrying out exercises, doing obstacle courses and honing our military skills. Oh man, the number of times I wanted to keel over, face first in the dirty sand, and never, ever get up. I cannot tell you how many times I considered it. Maybe if I pretended I was dead, they would leave me alone. Below, a photo of a group of us in the field with our C7 rifles on the day we were learning to repel. I was tired but laughing! (I’m in the centre.) The enjoyment was only enhanced by the fourth day when I started to experience a lot of pain in my knee. It was swollen to an abnormal size and I was starting to get worried. I figured it was just swollen from walking more than I was used to, so I kept going. I will acknowledge this about myself: Yes, I am a girly girl. I paint my nails. I like to have fantastic hair. I cannot do as many push ups or run like a man. But here’s another sneaky tidbit of information for you: I am very okay with that. I accept who I am for who I am but I don’t think it makes me any less of a soldier because I bring a variety of other skills to the table which don’t necessarily resemble those of Rambo. But all this aside, I know pain. After a kazillion broken bones, I know how to cope with parts of my body that hurt but that week in the field was unreal. So I kept on marching even though it hurt. By the end of the week, we had marched over 100 Km and my knee was the size of a basketball. The evening of our final exercise, my knee gave way and cracked on a rock. Let me tell you, that didn’t help the pain one bit. The following week, we had an entire week of drill practice to get ready for our graduation parade and oh, how I suffered! I was literally feeling sick for pain, and while most of my platoon mates were celebrating that the end of our ordeal was near, I would lock myself in my room with ice and cry. You also have to understand that my graduation parade was to be my Dad’s final day in uniform and I simply HAD to be on that parade. I’m sure I could have been excused medically but I was convinced the pain would go away once the course was over and I had time to rest. I had to march past him on that parade and make him proud of me. To me, it was the perfect Thompson Torch handover. When the course was over, we all drove home and I went to my friend’s house to get into the pool, thinking that would make me feel better. But once I got in, I could not get back out and someone had to carry me to the car and then off to the hospital. After an MRI was done, it was determined I had actually broken my leg, right at the top of my tibia, in my knee joint. Delightful. Perfect. But at least that explained the knee the size of China. Vindication. I was not being a wuss. Since then, my knee has caused me nothing but problems. I am lucky to be in the military in which we are provided with the ultimate in medical care and so I’ve had more surgeries (still waiting on another as we speak) and procedures than I can count and everyday, despite the best efforts of all the best doctors, the pain still haunts me. I cannot walk a step without feeling the reminder of that week in the field, when I was so desperate to prove I was the soldier I thought Canada needed me to be. I sit here now, looking back on those tortuous days but then I remember all the fantastic people I met, who to this day, I still see and speak to as often as possible because we experienced so much together. It’s hard not to remember those days fondly because now I know who I truly am and that was the greatest lesson of all. I know that I can take the greatest pain and turn it into something I can write and laugh about. I know I can be someone others can count on. I know that even when I think I can go no further, my mind and my body will find a way. Best of all, I know that I am the best soldier I can be. And that is all I can really ask of myself. Kelly