In an annual member survey, bereaved Armed Forces children’s charity, Scotty’s Little Soldiers, found that three quarters of families felt disconnected from the military community following the death of a loved one who was serving…
Following the alarming findings of the survey, the charity has now started a campaign with the aim of reconnecting families with the Armed Forces community. The #Reconnect campaign launches with a heart-warming and candid video of the charity founder Nikki Scott’s daughter, Brooke (age 10), asking her father’s Troop Sergeant, Paul Howard, questions about her late father, Corporal Lee Scott who was killed in Afghanistan in 2009.
Nikki said: “When you have a loved one in the Armed Forces you are part of a community, however when they die, many families – my own included – have to move out of their military accommodation so families often move back to their home towns leaving them feeling suddenly cut off from the community. It’s the reason I started the charity; so that families know that they are not alone in their pain. I think it’s really important for children to know about the lives of their loved ones, which is why we have started this campaign.”
In the emotional video, Brooke, who was just a baby when her father Lee was killed, asks Paul what her dad was like and about his role in the Army. Paul talks about being on tour in Afghanistan with Lee, telling Brooke stories about his experiences, showing her photos and talking about the stories behind the images. In this bittersweet interview, Brooke laughs, cries and visibly relishes learning more about the father she can’t remember.
When a serviceman or woman dies, their comrades who survive often don’t stay in touch with their families because they don’t want to upset them or drag up bad memories. They sometimes suffer with survivors’ guilt. Sgt Adam Horne, of the Royal Marines, Commando Training Centre, Young Officer Training Team said: “On the one hand I want to stay in touch with families and let them know that I am still thinking about them, but on the other hand I don’t want to intrude or upset them, especially when they seem to be getting back to a good place and moving forward with their lives.”
In its 2018 survey, Scotty’s Little Soldiers asked its beneficiaries the question: do you feel your child has lost touch with the military community? A staggering 87% answered yes to this question. It then went on to ask do you believe it is important for bereaved Forces children to maintain this connection? To which nine out of 10 said yes. While many families said a connection to the military community may not help them to move on, they did feel that there was a strong willingness not to be forgotten.
In response to this, Corporal Paul Findlay (former Royal Signals, injured on Herrick 10 serving with 19 Brigade reconnaissance force) said: “The last thing I would want is for the family of a fallen comrade to feel the community has forgotten them. However, survivors’ guilt has often stopped me from getting in touch with a fallen comrade’s family. On many occasions I have questioned why I survived and they didn’t. and wondered if their family felt the same way.”
There are many reasons why families lose contact with military communities, but with its ongoing engagement with families, Scotty’s Little Soldiers is acting as a go-between to ensure families are not forgotten.