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Sue Palmer Brings Music Across the Pond

Leaving friends and social support networks behind when posted can be a heartbreaking struggle for military wives.

After moving from the United Kingdom (UK) to Canada, Sue Palmer came up with her own solution. She began the Canadian Military Wive’s Choir in Ottawa, Ontario.

“In the UK my husband Adrian, a helicopter pilot, was working all the hours God sends and the two children were away at boarding school, as is the norm amongst British military families. We became aware the Canadian Air Force was actively recruiting pilots, and after many months of deliberation we decided to pack up our family and our belongings and move to Canada,” said Palmer.

Unfortunately, there were a few things Palmer could not manage to ship across the pond. Her Military Wive’s Choir was one of them.

For 17 months, she had been an active member of the Middle Wallop Choir in the UK.

“Being a choir member, very quickly, became a part of me and I couldn’t even contemplate leaving them behind when we decided to emigrate to Canada. It was definitely a case of having to find a way to fill a choir shaped hole in my life,” said Palmer.

Palmer began a dialogue with a variety of people via Facebook before she even left the UK and found there was enough interest to pursue the idea of a Canadian Military Wive’s Choir.

Almost immediately after arriving in Ottawa, Ontario the local Royal Canadian Legion put her in touch with a potential choir director. Two weeks later 14 military spouses attended the first tentative rehearsal.

It seems military wives are the same the world over, facing similar challenges like frequent moves, long separations from husbands, living far away from extended families, as well as changing jobs, schools and doctors.

“Being a part of the choir in Ottawa meant I made many wonderful friends very quickly. It’s amazing and quite emotional for me to see the power of the choir being replicated on this side of the Atlantic. Within a few weeks, ladies started to comment that we were like a family, and that’s it exactly,” said Palmer.

The Palmer’s children have settled happily into their local school in Ottawa and the family’s work, and life balance has improved dramatically over the past 18 months.

The entire family has embraced the Canadian lifestyle, although many of their native Canadian friends think they are ‘slightly mad’ as they brave the Arctic temperatures, embracing the opportunity to go skiing, skating, ice fishing and snowmobiling.

In her opinion, the value of every Military Wive’s Choir is twofold. Choirs provide communities, a support network and a place where military spouses feel they belong as soon as they step through the door. Choir membership gives women regular contact with others who understand them and their unique lifestyle.

Secondly, the choirs give military wives an identity, and literally a voice, both in their local communities and on the national stage.

At present, there are over fifty members in the Ottawa Canadian Military Wive’s Choir. Thanks to Palmer’s initiative and determination to see military wives come together to sing and support each other the Comox Canadian Military Wives Choir recently formed and performed for the first time. Palmer hopes to one day see military wives singing all across Canada.

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Vicki L Morrison

Thanks to her husband's military career Vicki reinvented herself as a writer so she could work from home, while taking care of their three kids. A former MFRC executive director Vicki is a passionate advocate for military families who loves telling their stories.

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Canadian Military Family Magazine