I have been part of the military community since I was born and even with some of its difficulties, I would not change it! My parents met in the RAF and my Dad will always tell us that he stole my mum from his friend as he was too much of a coward to ask her to dance, and my dad could not let my mum get away. Sounds more like a fairy-tale to me! They decided to have me and my sister when they were posted to Germany and we have both been given the nickname German Jocks ever since (my Dad is Scottish). We came back to the UK, more specifically Stamford, 11 months after I was born, and we have been based here ever since. I am very thankful for this as it meant I never had to leave any of my friends behind, my school routine never messed up and there was no catching up to do.
From nursery to the end of secondary school, my best friend Callum was always by my side as his parents too decided to base their family in Stamford. Our dads worked together now and again and having someone whose parent was also in the military really helped. He too has followed their footsteps and is serving in the RAF himself. In primary school there were not many military kids (or brats as some people like to call us) but we did have a tiny school, so it was expected. However, when I went to secondary, I met so many that had parents in the military. In my friendship group within the girls, I was the only one until year 10 when I met my best friend Heather, who’s dad was in the Army. It was nice to be able to share the difficulties of our dads being away with someone who understood what I was going through. During my GCSEs, my school set up a mentoring programme with our head of house and some of the military kids. I was thankful to be part of this as I was given all my necessary revision guides by the school and was pushed to get the best grades I could. Even though it did feel like there was a tough eye on me and all my grades I was getting during my mocks, it did push me, and I came out with a mixture of A*-Cs. Also, we did have a couple morning meetings with breakfast given to us as we discussed the next steps, which I cannot fault as who doesn’t love a good pastry before class!
When my dad was away, I knew my mum found it difficult especially when I was young, and she was juggling looking after me and my sister studying and working late nights. It did sometimes feel like we were not a proper family as we were not together for a lot of the year, but I will always be thankful for the 2-week summer holidays we got, whether that being abroad or in the UK as we got that family time back and work was not a topic to be mentioned.
I also did figure skating and judo from a young age and my parents would always take me to training and competitions, even though they hated the waiting around the cold ice rink! This gave me the opportunity to have that one-on-one time with them without my sister there and having their support, especially at judo competitions, meant so much to me. Even a few award nights I’ve been invited to, winning them with my parents in the crowd just made it more surreal as I wouldn’t have been able to achieve my goals without them.
From a young age I always remember my dad being away a lot or only being home on weekends, this took its toll at times as I felt I never really got to have a proper connection with my dad. We used to send E-blueys back and forth when he was away and waiting for them to come in the post was like receiving a mini-Christmas present. When the technology finally caught up, we were able to skype, even though it was for a limited amount of time once a week it was always something to look forward to.
It was until I was in my last year of sixth form when my dad got a posting to the base around the corner, that Dad living in the house felt more normal to me. I was apprehensive of how the dynamic would work, but it allowed me the opportunity to get to fully know my dad. And because I was older, it was so much easier to understand why he was away so much growing up and to take full advantage of this time now. For the last few years, we have also ventured up to Scotland to watch the rugby with Dads’ side of the family, who I did not really know until now. I look forward to these weekends away the most as it is difficult to be able to go and see them when life gets busy.
I am now 22 years old and studying my masters of Sport and Exercise Science at university. Moving away to university was never difficult for me as being away from family came as a routine. However, I did still visit home as much as I could and Facetime them all the time, especially when trying to cook food! My relationship with both my parents is the best it has ever been right now and even though I do not like to tell them, I do not know what I’d do without them. I always ring them first when I am having problems, even though it is probably something as simple as how long to re-heat my food for.
My dad has now been in the RAF for 41 years!!! And is due to retire this year (even though he still has two kids asking for money 24/7). He has accomplished so much, and I will always look up to him for this. He has taught me to always strive to be the best I can and work towards the job of my dreams, no matter what it might be. I still do not understand what exactly he does, even though he has probably explained it millions of times. But I do know to always wear your hat outside unless you want a telling off, but that’s a given right?