The transition to a young adult is not always an easy pathway. As a service child who lost his mother to cancer at the age of 12, James Budding has had to cope with more than most. Here, his dad Jason, who serves with the Royal Corps of Signals, takes up the story…

James has faced more challenges than any parent would wish. The upheaval of our family following the diagnosis of cancer in 2014 shouldn’t be underestimated.

We were in Germany; both of my sons were of an age where they were enjoying the posting and everything that came with it. Fast forward 18 months and we returned to England, mum had been taken far too early and it was me and the two boys on our own.

The support we received from Defence Medical Welfare Services both in Germany and on our return was outstanding (Ann McKenzie you were amazing); but the time had come to go it alone.

Steps to success

The changes forced upon James took their toll and his behaviour became challenging, it doesn’t take a genius to work out why. He needed his own focus and escapism, and eventually he found it in the Dorset Army Cadet Force (ACF). Once in, nothing has stopped his passion for it.

In his own words: “I needed the cadets; it gave me focus and kept me away from trouble.”

From his first nights under the stars on exercise to his completion of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and progression up the promotion ladder, his success has made me so very proud.

The ACF has given him focus, belief in himself, confidence in abundance and a sense of purpose. Such was his obsession, wild horses couldn’t keep him away. I’m not quite sure I needed his mentoring on how to conduct drill, noting that I’m in my 35th year of service, but the enthusiasm from him is immeasurable.

Bright future

Now James seeks to secure a place at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst as he completes his college course this summer. His application to securing the right grades continues to amaze me.

As he came to the end of his time as a cadet, he received the best accolade I could imagine and was selected as the Dorset County Regimental Sergeant Major.

I thought it only appropriate to say publicly well done, you make me so proud!

(Main photo: James, his dad Jason and Lt Col Mick Boyle)

If your youngster would like to find out more about the cadets go to to find a detachment in your area.