THE DEMAS SYNDROME
I SHARE the preoccupation of Mrs Major M. Lloyd on the subject of officers who resign (January 1991). The problem surfaces from time to time, searching for a solution.
It is sadly true that when officers leave the ranks, they disappear from their comrades' view: we learn of their resignation (at least in this territory) only by rumour, or sometimes a note from THQ, and we don't even know their address. At the moment of leaving they are deeply wounded, often bitter and at times unfair in their judgments, preferring to cut off any connections with the Army. That is not to say that they disappear from our thoughts and prayers, or that we withdraw our friendship.
To consider them 'failures' would be to pronounce a daring, even incorrect judgment. Some of them may quite sincerely have been mistaken in their calling. (Several in this territory have served faithfully in other denominations. They were probably not destined to be officers.)
In our officership, we pass through critical phases which make us want to stop, take stock and get our breath. These may be caused by overwork or nervous tension. It is regrettable if an officer then sees resignation as the only solution. This suggestion of the Adversary must be repulsed and some means found to reorganise life and work, in certain countries such as France it is possible to obtain a few weeks' break through the Social Security system, to regain general equilibrium.
Critical periods can also be caused by disagreements about our work or doctrinal queries. To have no other option than resignation is discouraging.
The regulations make provision for leave of absence for specified family reasons only, If this could be extended to include officers who honestly and sincerely are going through a difficult period, they would no longer feel 'prisoners' of their officership. It would also enable than to discuss their situation with their superiors with the opportunity of clearing up any misunderstanding. Even so, some resignations will be inevitable.*
In my 38 years of service I never considered resigning, because of my
strong sense of vocation. Several times. though. there was inner unrest, and once, after more than 25 years of service, a situation arose which made me want to distance myself momentarily from the Army (the six weeks' extended furlough did not exist then).
Later I recognised it as a weakening of my consecration and obedience. It was a time of great turmoil, until one day I happened to read the following lines which made me continue on the path of service:
Your days are not your own
To spend just as you please.
Your days are meant for more
Than comfort, fun and ease.
For you were shaped to spend each day
In helping others on their way.
When a cadet in training I had been very impressed by the story of Abraham fighting the birds of prey which attacked the sacrifice he had placed on the altar. Bravely 'he drove them away'. We too have to watch over our offering to God. It is an old story but it is always applicable.
SUZANNE BARBELL, Lieut-Colonel (R),