One in five military families in Yorkshire and the Humber have been apart for once-in-a-lifetime moments like the birth of a child, new research shows.
It is yet another example of the “human cost” of military service, which is not always understood by their communities, armed forces charity SSAFA has said.
Director Justine Baynes said: “It’s easy to forget that serving in our armed forces means more than defending the nation – there is also a human price that every member of the military pays.
“Being away from home and your loved ones for any period can be difficult – but imagine doing it for months at a time with limited communication.
“Whilst it is accepted to be a part of the job at hand, it’s important that we remember that missing birthdays, school plays and those special moments that create memories can take a toll.
“SSAFA understands the many challenges faced by military families – that’s why we have been supporting the Armed Forces family for over 130 years.”
A survey by the charity, formerly the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association, found that two-in-five military families (39 per cent) in Yorkshire and the Humber have not been together for significant family events such as birthdays, weddings, funerals and anniversaries.
More than a third (34 per cent) of military families in the region said they have been separated for ten months or longer due to the demands which come with their choice of career, which
can involve travelling to remote areas of the UK for training,
deployment abroad and being on a tour of duty within conflict zones.
With family time together being so precious, just over a third of military families (35 per cent) said that when they do get to spend time together as a family they feel pressured to enjoy the time they have, putting an extra strain on these moments to be perfect.
As well as having to spend extended time apart, the survey shows that a third (30 per cent) of military families in Yorkshire and the Humber have been forced to delay some of life’s major milestones, such as getting married, buying a house, or starting a family, due to a long deployment.
However, an understanding of the strain on family life was often poorly understood by civilians, the research showed.
Of the civilians surveyed, most (83 per cent) had no idea that military personnel could be away from their families for 10 months or longer while on active duty or training exercises.
Birthdays are the most common family occasion missed by armed forces personnel in the region, with nearly a third (30 per cent) of survey respondents saying their family had been apart for one.
This was followed by weddings, with a fifth (21 per cent) of servicemen and women missing a loved one’s big day, the survey showed. Other common family occasions missed were a baby’s first steps and a wedding anniversary.
One in ten (nine per cent) armed forces personnel from Yorkshire and the Humber (nine per cent) had missed their baby’s first words, while seven per cent of those surveyed had missed the birth of a child.