When will I be a veteran?

On her retirement from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Margaret Shorter grappled with what it meant to become a "veteran" through a reflexive ethnographic interview with Jane Hall, a fellow female veteran of the RCMP and author of The Red Wall:  A Woman in the RCMP.


When will I be a veteran?

by Margaret Shorter

Listen to Margaret's conversation with Jane.

I had decided that June 21, 2012, would be the day I formally retired from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.   It was then that I began to think about being “a veteran”.   I had already grappled with the association of aging with the word ‘retirement’ and I was pretty sure that veterans were even older than that.  Other than my retired RCMP father, veterans had survived world wars.  I could see them in my mind’s eye standing, or sitting in wheelchairs, at cenotaphs on November 11th each year on Remembrance Day —and there had never been any women in those images!

One of the earliest strategies I implemented to help me adjust to my anticipated life as an ex-member of the RCMP was to enroll in a Master’s Degree Program at Royal Roads University.  I did this one year prior to my retirement date knowing that, once retired, I would be free to devote my full time to my studies in the second and final year of the Program.   One of the things I enjoyed about going back to school as an adult was that it gave me complete control over what I chose to study.   Moreover, at the post-graduate level, the focus is on research and one can study whatever one is interested in, curious about, or compelled to investigate.  I concentrated on packing and planning the requisite “retirement party”.

As I worked my way through the paperwork toward official retirement, I began to experience some trepidation about life without my RCMP family and what it would mean to be a veteran police officer.   Where were the female Mounties who had retired before me?  I had nobody to ask but I did remember that one of them had written a book titled The Red Wall:  A Woman in the RCMP.  Its author, Jane Hall, was not only a veteran of the Force she was a member of the Vancouver Chapter of the RCMP Veterans’ Association and a member of its Board of Directors.  

Jane and I met in January this year at a special veterans’ tour of the new ‘E’ Division RCMP Headquarters in Surrey, B.C.  As I had learned from her book, Jane is a fundamentally positive person, fair, encouraging, and full of ideas.  From the moment we connected, Jane was open to my research question on becoming a female police veteran.  Our collaboration has resulted in a profile interview to be published in the Spring 2013 edition of WomenPolice magazine, the official publication of the International Association of Women Police (IAWP).  An audio version of the interview can be heard on Jane’s new website, www.redwalljanehall.com.  It can also be accessed from the IAWP website, www.iawp.org , and from the website of the Vancouver Chapter of the RCMP Veterans’ Association at www.rcmpveteransvancouver.com .  

One of the things I have learned in life is that knowledge has more power when it is shared.  Jane and I hope you enjoy our interview conversation.  Going back to Depot; through the early days of women in operational policing and the changes in Canadian society; to the challenges of today’s leadership, it reflects our experiences as women in the RCMP—both as serving officers and as veterans.  Please connect with others and share your thoughts.