Kirsty, Ben (serving) and their children Annabel (11), Henry (10) and Hugh (18 months) have just settled into their latest posting in Edinburgh…

Our very first whirlwind experiences of army family life were some of the most memorable and poignant for me. Having met in our childhood hometown in Pembrokeshire, we tied the knot in 2009 when Ben was fresh out of Sandhurst, and we dived headlong into a very different world together.

In many ways it was quite romantic… our friends seemed to think so. Having never lived together as a couple, Ben and I were still dusting off the confetti when we moved into our first quarter. Ben had been posted to 2 Royal Welsh in Tidworth.

Goodness knows what I had expected, but my immediate reaction upon looking at the charmless property we were to make our home, was to promptly burst into tears. But I soon came to appreciate that what we had was at least spacious and practical and wonderfully located, with THE most fantastic neighbours!

Family planning

Two months later, our adorable border terrier Lucy – the ‘first born’– brightened up our home and I was keeping busy working for Help for Heroes. Within a few more weeks, we learned that we were expecting our first child. Our excitement was tinged with apprehension as we counted through the months and confirmed that our baby girl was due to arrive in the middle of Ben’s first tour.

He would have to try and remain focused on operational duties with a huge life moment potentially unfolding thousands of miles away at home. Meanwhile, I would have to go through the final trimester, the birth, and the difficult first months caring for a newborn on my own.

This is where the amazing network of patch friends, supportive colleagues, welfare officers and a wonderful padre really came into their own. Without them, an already unnerving situation would have been frantic; but with their support, Ben was able to return home just long enough for the birth of Annabel, before going back to Afghanistan.

This heartfelt wave of support at a time when I was at my most bewildered will always be a treasured memory. Since then, we’ve racked up a further six postings and welcomed two more children – Henry, and more recently, little Hugh.

We have experienced a Falkland Islands posting – a quirky and uplifting year of our lives we will never forget. I’ve had the honour of being part of the Military Wives Choirs and attended some of the most hilarious parties, making countless fantastic friends along the way.

Having to move on is hard but it helps when you know most of your friends and neighbours ‘get it’. My advice to anyone starting down this path is simply to lean in and embrace that support bubble that is so unique to the patch community.

Whatever your relationship to your soldier, we’d love to hear about your army family. Email and follow @ArmyandYou for more stories

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