Beyond The Uniform

Building a Personal Network Outside the Military

I will always remember walking into that room filled with people from all walks of life. It was so odd. Even though I had a ton of experience moving on short notice, I could count on the fact the people I met at the new location shared a common bond. We were all serving members.

This time, it was different. I was a civilian now. Even though I no longer had that built-in military network, I still had that yearning inside to be part of something larger than myself. The desire to give back to the community and to connect on a deep level with others. Toastmasters provided all of this for me.

Sense of Belonging Again

The great leveller for us from all walks of life was we all wanted to become better communicators. Some of us were new leaders and were expected to develop assertiveness. Others just wanted to tell stories and connect with like-minded people. It was my new place, and even though it felt intimidating in the beginning, it was not long before I felt a sense of belonging again.

I have heard veterans share that when they left the military voluntarily, they yearned for the routine and connections they shared with comrades. But when we leave against our wishes, when disability forces us to go before our time is up, we can feel like we were thrown out of a plane without a parachute. We lose our careers and our purpose at a vulnerable time.

We also lose our support network, which can be very challenging. I had been a soldier since the age of 17. All of my coming-of-age milestones happened while I was in the military. I felt I had little in common with people who had not served and had chosen to pursue careers that were different than mine. Through my storytelling at Toastmasters, I was able to reconnect with my experiences. Sharing them with the group sometimes surprised me with how much adventure I had experienced as a soldier. Sharing my experiences also allowed people to get a view of what “there’s no life like it” really means.

Finding Connection

We all want to be connected, and it is not always possible to remain connected with serving people. After I left the military, I was delighted to find the Facebook group Military Gals. Being a member of the group has given me the opportunity to reconnect with lost colleagues. I feel very fortunate to reconnect with them. We sometimes come together for lunch to share stories.

And when we do get together, it feels like coming home. You don’t need to explain yourself. They just get it. Things have come full circle—connection is an important value of mine, and I have taken the steps to be able to connect again. It is so good for my mental health and well-being. There are many opportunities to form meaningful connections in the community. We just need to be open to new experiences.

Debbie is the CEO of PeopleCan Training, which specializes in helping forced/reluctant entrepreneurs become profitable sooner. She served in the Canadian Armed Forces from 1980-1991. Find her book “Money Mindset” visit here.

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Debbie Adams

Debbie Adams, ret'd is the CEO of PeopleCan Training specializing in helping forced/reluctant entrepreneurs become profitable sooner. She served in the Canadian Armed Forces from 1980-1991. Find her book "Money Mindset" at

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Canadian Military Family Magazine