By Louise Fetigan, founder of Little Troopers, a charity supporting children with parents serving in the British Armed Forces
My name is Louise Fetigan and I am the founder of Little Troopers, a charity dedicated to supporting the thousands of UK children who have parents serving in the British Armed Forces. I set up the charity ten years ago when my own daughter was struggling with some of the challenges of military life and I didn’t know where to turn to for support.
The Armed Forces community is in many ways a hidden part of British life and it’s very rarely depicted in literature or in the media. Not a lot of people outside of our world understand what it’s like to live behind the wire of a military base or to have a loved one deployed overseas and this can be hard for the 100,000+ children in the UK who have a serving parent. Day-to-day, these children cope with a lot of uncertainty and change. Things that their civilian peers simply can’t relate to. Parent deployments can last for months at a time; parents can often be called away from home at short notice and most military families move home (and therefore, school) every few years – sometimes even living overseas.
When did you last read a children’s book that explored any of these settings and topics or featured a military child as the protagonist? I believe that we are missing an important opportunity to support these children by not representing their stories and experiences more in children’s literature.
We all know that stories are a powerful tool that children can use to help them navigate through personal challenges. And whilst service children can of course read about separation, friendship, belonging, identity, worry and loss through other non-military stories, there is something very special about seeing their own experiences brought to life in a book. Ask any forces parent and you can guarantee that a story about Armed Forces life is probably one of their child’s favourite books.
This is one of the main reasons that I commissioned children’s author, Donna David, to write two series of books for Little Troopers featuring military children from across the three services: Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force. There are also a handful of fantastic titles out there such as Jerilyn Marler’s Lily Hates Goodbyes, Billie Templar’s War and Zara Johnston’s Moving: Teddy’s Journey.
None of these books focus on the day-to-day specifics of military jobs, but they do bring to life the child’s experience at home. By reading these books, military children can identify with the characters and it can be the starting point of them working through problems and feelings that they otherwise might have struggled to manage.
I also think that stories about Armed Forces life can also be a great resource for civilian children. It can help them to understand what their service friends are going through, broaden their horizons and remove some of those myths and stigmas associated with Armed Forces life.
April is the international month of the military child and my hope is that more schools, libraries and book groups recognise the benefits of sharing the stories of military children in their setting. Little Troopers has recently partnered with the Welsh Government to provide copies of our storybooks to all primary schools in Wales which is a great step in the right direction. As a charity, our mission is to help service children feel recognised, supported and celebrated; sharing the stories and of military children with them and their civilian friends is a wonderful way to achieve all three.