Heather

From birth I have been a military child, something I have always held pride over. When I was born, my parents lived in their own home near Chichester on the South coast. However, at 16 months old we moved into our first quarter where I held some of my first memories in Lark Hill. I can remember that my parents painted the walls in our living room blue because this was the first time my mum had lived in a quarter, and when she moved in, she wasn’t exactly excited by the old carpets and woodchip walls. Although, when we moved from house to house over the years, one thing that has always made me feel at home are the woodchip walls and blue or red carpets. From the ages of 3-10 we lived in Thorney Island barracks; here I was lucky enough to have the most incredible childhood. Everything was just an adventure and the world wasn’t scary. Everyone knew everyone and we all just became friends. We would ride our bikes to school and be able to go out and explore without our parents ever having to worry too much. My school was on base and when I started there were only around sixty pupils.

 

Although people came and went, it always felt like a strong community. On sports day everyone’s dads would turn up in their uniform and this was just normal, and you could never tell which one was your dad because they would all just look the exact same! Everyone was the same really, looking back now it is weird to think about how everyone lives and works together but it was something we all would just be used to. I never knew how much I didn’t cope well with change; I was happy with my routine and being around my friends.

When I was ten years old my family moved to the midlands, to St George’s Barracks. I didn’t really know anyone there and although it was a military base the quarters were outside of the wire which was new for me, my new school was in the village next to us, in North Luffenham. With the exception of one or two people in my class, everyone else’s parents where civilians with normal nine-to-five office jobs; so obviously we stuck out like sore thumbs. I felt alien compared to everyone else. We hadn’t all been to nursery school together and grown up together and it just was all completely different for me. I did eventually settle and spent my last year of primary there and made some great friends. I had always been sensitive as a child which I was embarrassed about, I felt like none of my teachers really understood this. At Thorney Island primary, I had a TA called Mrs Phelps who really got me as a person and I felt lost without her, which I don’t think I ever really realised until I reflect back. School became a real issue when I hit secondary, I had one or two friends but never a solid friendship group. I was a bit odd I guess, I liked animals a lot and would find it easier to go home and sit with my cat then be in a group of girls at lunch time. Again, my secondary school was a civilian school a school that offered me no support. I felt like a nuisance and was always told I was too sensitive. My dad had just started to be deployed which I hadn’t experienced much, and I felt like everything was falling apart. My mum was my absolute rock when I was fourteen and school became a real issue. My dad was commuting to Yorkshire every week to try and not disrupt mine and my sister’s schoolwork and I became so unhappy. I would say I had no friends and anyone I tried to make a friendship with would find me too much hassle. There was no support from school, and I missed my dad so much. It got to the point where I refused to attend school and my mum moved me to a new school. ​​​​​​​

I moved to a school called Casterton College which saved my life. I finally found myself and made friends for life. I met my best friend Emma who was also was a military child - she was the first friend I’d had since being at Thorney who really felt like a true friend. I finally felt like a school understood me; there was hundreds of students who had a military background, and the school’s pastoral care was outstanding. I thrived in a school who accepted me, and I finally began to accept that being a military child was something to stand out for, but not in a negative way. I stayed with Casterton throughout my GCSE’s and A -Levels and loved every moment. I only began to struggle again when I left for university. I struggled to find my passion and missed my parents. 

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I believe that many people’s connotation of a military family is that they’re usually not as close because they aren’t always living together. If anything, this made our family unit stronger and harder to leave each other. I am now twenty-two years old and studying to hopefully become a documentary researcher/ director. I still have my teddy with me that has been in every bedroom since the beginning. I feel so lucky to be a military child and will always be so proud of the 34 years of service my dad has served. My parents have sacrificed years of their marriage to keep me and my sister in the same place and I don’t think any words would be enough to thank them. ​​​​​​​

 

If I was to offer any advice to a child who had a parent in the military, it would be to make sure you keep a strong bond with your siblings and your parents because even though your surroundings will change, your parent’s wont. They will always be there to support you.