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:
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
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.