Why I Left The Armed Forces

Why I Left The Armed Forces

While on vacation during the summer of 2018, I began reading the book “Called to Freedom” which explores the intersection of Christian faith and political freedom. I had recently ranked highly in a competition which would have sent me back to full-time university studies to complete my degree. The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) would have covered my tuition and books, and maintained my salary for the full duration. My Chain of Command was grooming me for an eventual commission and the long career they hoped would come with it. Things looked promising.

As I began reading that book I became increasingly aware I was avoiding numerous internal conflicts which had been brewing for several years. Many assume when a Libertarian decides to leave the military, it must be the result of adopting the anti-war position. But I can’t say that was my primary motivator. There’s an adage I’ve heard throughout the years, “with increasing security comes decreasing freedom.” Therein lies the tension.

I joined the military soon after the birth of our first child. My wife and I had recently moved across the country to a rural setting closer to her family and had naively assumed I would find adequate employment. I found work but there were no guaranteed hours. Growing our family wouldn’t be possible given my income, so after much prayer, we decided I would join the Air Force. We hoped we would secure a posting to the nearby Air Force Base which would allow us to stay in the immediate area. Fortunately, after completing several months of initial training away from my family, we received confirmation that we would indeed stay put. Our rural lifestyle marched on.

Over the next three years, we added two more children and began homeschooling our eldest. A common tagline in CAF literature is “supporting families.” Within the ranks however, members often joked that if the Chain of Command wanted us to have a family, they would have issued us one! Slightly exaggerative, but you get the point. It was around this time, four years into my service, I started to feel as though I wasn’t living authentically. Something was wrong.

I had long recognized I was having a hard time reconciling my Christian beliefs with the oath sworn to a country whose policies went against certain biblical teachings. At that time, I still considered myself politically conservative and interpreted Christian political thought through the lens of Romans 13. Ugh. For those unfamiliar with the Book of Romans, it is the part of the bible many Christians point to when justifying the inherent goodness of the state. It was here where the book I initially mentioned was able to break serious ground for me, ground firmly laid since becoming a Christian ten years earlier. The second chapter of the book, written by Jason Hughey, completely dismantled my previous understanding of the relationship between church and state. For the first time in a decade I was politically homeless – but that wouldn’t last.

After finishing the book, I began seriously contemplating how my family and I were measuring up in the area of personal liberty. I soon realized we weren’t scoring well on numerous fronts, the first being my inability to ultimately control my comings and goings. With military service comes the reality that at any moment they can send you away from your family. They snap, you heel. Imagine making future plans knowing full well that your employer can easily bring them to ruin. It takes a toll. On average, personnel are uprooted every two to six years depending on their trade. For us, every year that passed only brought us closer to the place we called home. There was a reason we chose it to begin with. 

Additionally, my occupation left us perpetually uncertain of our financial future due to the possibility of future relocations. Not surprisingly, the cost of living varies depending on the specific province and municipality we live in. Income tax and sales tax rates differ from one Canadian province to the next just as the cost of housing varies from one urban setting to the next. To try and offset these variables the Canadian Government created the Post Living Differential (PLD) which is a taxable benefit added to a member’s income if they are posted in a qualifying area. This CBC article does an adequate job of detailing the benefit’s flaws. I remember asking myself the following question “Why would someone who values personal freedom want to spend twenty five years moving in and out of different housing markets, potentially unable to build equity, while having to constantly readjust their family’s budget and lifestyle? As a single income family, we had chosen a region where, although we weren’t rich, we could make a good life for ourselves. How could I allow someone else to undo that?”

Of importance in all this, we are a single income family as a consequence of choosing to homeschool our children. Does the military have vested interest in supporting this pursuit? Not likely. Given my financial trade and being bilingual, we would have surely encountered several moves to high cost urban centres. This would have likely forced us to cease homeschooling so my wife could create a second income. Homeschooling is a gift. It allows us to present concepts from different angles while crafting delivery styles which best suit each of our children’s individual learning styles. This investment in our children is one of the highest ways in which we can show our devotion to them. I could never leave this part of our family dynamic vulnerable to the arbitrary posting decisions made by individuals with little regard for our values.    

Coming back to where we began, our week long family vacation came to an end. Inspired by the ideas and arguments found in that book, my wife and I decided it was time to step out and trust our instincts. Personal freedom was too important. Within a couple months we purchased a home based on unknown future earnings from an unknown future job. We moved into the home and I notified my superiors of my intent to release in ten months’ time. Many people, including some relatives, had their doubts. But we knew it was worth risking. I recall telling countless people that even if it brought us to financial ruin, we would never regret making efforts to increase the level of autonomy over our own lives. A future free from constant relocation, periodic time away from each other, and never knowing if our homeschooling efforts would be brought to an end was beckoning us.

At the time of writing this, it has been one year since my last day in uniform. I am pleased to report I was able to find employment and we are thankful to God it came with a pay raise. Our roots continue to grow, which has brought an added level of security to our family. Any future changes we now make will be at our discretion, not someone else’s. Now what could possibly be wrong with that?

Towards liberty,

OA

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