Debra Lilley tells Army&You how her daughter – a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery – followed her grandfather, father and husband into the Army and how things are different this time round…
MY daughter didn’t simply follow her father’s career as he left the Army when she was barely three.
It was a school careers visit that did it. She came home at 13 and said she wanted to join the Army. I guess because of our background we didn’t see it as an issue and didn’t try to discourage her.
I, just like every other Army mum, could not be prouder of my daughter.
When she was undertaking her trade training, there was a parents’ day where we were shown what she was doing and the value of it.
I couldn’t believe the cost and the responsibility; seeing her in action showed me what she can achieve. I cruelly used to laugh at how the Army had spotted this potential in her when I wouldn’t trust her in charge of an ironing board!
Then at her dining-in she sat next to the master gunner, the most senior officer in the Royal Artillery, and I was so impressed at how she kept him engaged in conversation throughout.
I was so proud. I spend a lot of time with senior executives and it can be very intimidating, but she had self belief and wasn’t affected. At that moment I knew she would be a great officer.
When she found out she was going to Afghanistan, I was pleased because she wanted to go to do her bit, but as her mum I knew I would worry.
Her father served in the first Gulf War, my father’s unit were part of The Falklands campaign and I also remember the many tours he did in Northern Ireland.
I grew up keeping in touch with just a bluey, no internet or phones for us.
You wrote a letter, waited for them to receive it and then the same amount of time to get a reply. In reality, you waited weeks and then several came at once.
News used to take time to reach families. We heard The Falklands had been liberated before we heard the details of the battle; the Gulf War news was better but sporadic.
Wind on 20 years and news is immediate, often live. In many ways that is better and in other ways worse. I am a more confident person myself and able to better deal with separation than when her father was deployed.
Her tour was the last Op Herrick and as she was based in Camp Bastion, she could use the internet when off duty. Phones were not allowed but she could leave messages or even chat.
Times were never scheduled but I heard from her every few days. She is a great daughter and knew I would worry so she made a special effort. In fact I probably heard more from her when she was in Afghanistan than normal.
So the world has moved on and the Army has made great strides at considering families much more, taking steps so that we can support serving members rather than adding to the soldier’s stress.
I didn’t have to worry (too much) and could concentrate on being that proud mum.