The hidden costs of the Voluntary Rescue Services.

A friend started a discussion on the RAF Mountain Rescue Facebook page. He mentioned with great honestly the difficult period for relationships and many families have when their loved one joins a Mountain Rescue Team. Like many voluntary Services, the RNLI, Coastguards etc the team,group becomes all consuming. Team members end up going away regularly on Training or Call – outs. Being a member of any voluntary service is hard on these we leave behind especially if you have a young family.

My Mum, Dad sisters and brother saw me once a year if they were lucky as I was away so often. I was a young lad and it became all consuming. I can never get that time back as sadly Mum and Dad are long gone. They did understand but unknown to me for many years my mother worried about me every weekend.

For many of my 40 years in Mountain Rescue I was single. Later on as a Team Leader my partner hardly saw me as did the children. It took me years to appreciate the loss to them. How many birthdays, Sports days , parents nights and big days important days did I miss with them . It definitely did effect them at the time they have told me. In addition I was away on several long expeditions many lasting months. My partner and the kids worried about me. I even found a note saying “please come back don’t die “ from the kids. It was stuffed in my boots along with a drawing . At the time I shrugged that off but now I realise a lot better.

It took years to try and change things and attitudes. In the team we had a Christmas party for the kids and then a Families weekend once a year where they joined us. Sometimes we got a call – out not what we needed. Yet It was great to see all the kids out for a weekend and I will not forget the Families weekends to Gairloch, Killin and Badaguish. At least we managed to give something back.

In these days we were away 3 full weekends a month later it was cut to 2 thank goodness. Yet it was so hard for those left behind. What a loss for those you love, yet it was who I was. I cannot imagine it now how anyone put up with this life.

There was also the danger involved in Rescue. Many of our families worried about this especially as the kids got older. In my time two Mountain Rescue Team leaders were killed Phil Jones the Team Leader of Assynt MRT and Harry Lawrie Killin MRT in the helicopter crash on Ben More. These were difficult times and effected a lot of our families. Yet we hardly spoke about it. I have heard from a wife of an ex Teamleader of one of Scotland’s biggest teams that she could hardly sleep till her husband was safely home.

The families,wives and partners gave us so much support yet their efforts took years to be recognised. It seems a lot better nowadays as attitudes change.A few years ago Killin MRT the partners and wives were recognised by being given a team lapel badge it was a small but lovely gesture. It was a lovely idea and I had the honour to present them.It is good that the team reunions for many years are now mixed function. Long gone are the all male re – unions of the past. That was not an easy change for some of the Dinosaurs but thank goodness things have moved on. So this is a big thank you to all the families who support all the voluntary Rescue services. The calls in the middle of the night, re arranging life round the teams worrying about us never take it for granted. You support was and is greatly appreciated.

Thank you all,

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Family, Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, PTSD, Views Mountaineering, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

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