Meet the Russell family: Tony (serving soldier), Alison and their five children Charlie (22), Bethany (20), Liam (18), Thomas (17) and Jack (10). Here, Alison shares their story…

We are what you might refer to as a ‘blended’ family – we’ve come together after the breakdown of our previous relationships. Tony has Charlie, Bethany and Thomas, and I have Liam and Jack.

We’ve been together almost seven years and married for three. We went to school together and were really good friends, bonding over 90s’ music, however, life took us on our own paths.

Our marriages broke down, leaving us as single parents. We started catching up via social media and decided to meet up back in our hometown. After an amazing evening we spoke as much as we could – even when he was away on exercise. He asked me to attend the Christmas mess do with him, something I was so nervous about.

INTRODUCTIONS

We introduced our children and, considering there’s a 12- year age difference between the eldest and youngest, they got on amazingly well. We spent the following summer together and the children bonded – they have always got along, which is something we never take for granted. Christmas 2015 as a family was amazing, but a little hectic.

Tony proposed in 2016 on Brighton seafront… the main thing I remember, as he bent down on one knee, is a naked man running towards the sea!

Two weeks before the wedding we were allocated a four-bedroom property in Tidworth. It was a large townhouse, so the top main bedroom was given to the two younger teenage boys, my stepdaughter and youngest son had their own bedrooms.

ADAPTING THE SPACE

At first, we had to adapt our dining room into a bedroom for our eldest. Due to his age, he wasn’t included in the bedroom allocation. However, in time we adapted part of our garage into a bedroom for him. When he started his basic training with the army, he wasn’t at home as much.

Like all families we’ve had occasional ups and downs, but all the kids adjusted to their new lives so well. The day after our wedding, Jack started calling Tony ‘dad’, which was a real moment for me. The love he has for all the family is amazing, we both treat all the children as our own.

The eldest flew the nest in 2019, following his dad’s footsteps to become a Royal Engineer. Jack struggled with him leaving at first but adjusted in time.

As lockdown hit, we were together again as a family of seven and it turned out to be our last summer in Tidworth.

MAKING THINGS WORK

Tony’s 24 years was up in January and he had gained a place with Wiltshire Police, however, in true army curveball style, was offered a six-year extension. So, we moved to the Midlands last August where Tony is undertaking a role with the army engagement team.

We had difficulties gaining a school place for Jack and have had to get used to not living with Bethany as, at 19, she wanted to stay in Wiltshire. We miss her loads but see her as much as we can.

I’ve struggled to meet other families here as we live on a mainly civilian patch, however, I’ve found work with the NHS as part of the vaccine rollout programme.

I feel so grateful to have had incredible support from our parents and friends. I’ve always felt supported as a newbie coming into army life and I’ve made some great friends along the way.


Whatever your relationship to your soldier, we’d love to hear about your army family. Email us at editor@aff.org.uk and follow @ArmyandYou on social media for more stories.

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