Give a warm welcome to a very special guest, Suzie Tullett! Suzie, thank you and your husband for raising such a brave and caring son. It’s people like Ben and your family, who make this world a better place. Holding Ben, members of the Royal Air Force, and their families in prayer.
Suzie is the mother of two gorgeous sons, the wife of a serving Police Officer and a full time writer, lucky enough to live between the UK and Greece. And when she’s not tapping away on the computer creating her own literary masterpieces, she usually has her head in someone else’s.
I remember my youngest son joining the British Royal Air Force like it was yesterday. He’d just turned 16 and was barely out of school – way too young to be leaving home in my book; yet there his Dad and I were, driving him down to Halton regardless, getting ready to hand our little boy over to the base where he was to begin his basic training… Honestly, it was awful. I mean I’m the kind of mum who’d keep my children well and truly wrapped in cotton wool if I could get away with it, so why on earth I brought them up to be so independent beats me to this day!
Still, I played my role well, making sure to match his enthusiasm, smile in all the right places, encourage where possible and talk about what a fantastic career he had ahead of him – when all I really wanted to do was turn the car around and take him back home again. But that’s what we as parents do when it comes to supporting some of our children’s life decisions, isn’t it? We put on a brave face…. Although in instances like this we also keep our fingers crossed in the hope that a fallen tree somewhere along the road will prevent our journey from going any further – however, in my case there was no such luck and yes, we arrived at our destination without incident.
I had expected to be able to spend a little time with our son before we left, but, alas, that wasn’t to be the case either… So despite the RAF putting on a ‘Family Day’, it very quickly transpired, it was more a ‘Family Of’ event – our son immediately being taken off in one direction, whilst we, his parents, were led off in the another. Naturally, I very quickly found myself close to tears as a result, leaving Benjamin’s Dad no choice but to intervene on my behalf… and after a quiet word with Ben’s superiors he was thankfully brought back to us so we could each say our proper goodbyes; however, imagine my horror upon seeing he’d already had the obligatory head shave!
Now I don’t know if it was the circumstances we were in, my nerves, or, indeed, his – but it was like staring into the eyes of a six foot, five year old. Then to make matters worse, from the way the other parents were talking it was obvious his peers were all going to be so much older – most of them already in their early to mid-twenties by the sounds of things. A reality further brought home when later that day, it became apparent that Benjamin was now the youngest serving member of the RAF.
Then came the time to watch him swear his Oath of Allegiance, which was when his age really impacted. There he was, choosing to serve and defend his Queen and Country, with such heartfelt meaning and at such a tender age, when the nearest most other 16 year olds get to a war zone is through a play station game alone. Suddenly, Benjamin was no longer a child, he was a man and I felt so proud you couldn’t believe…
Of course, five years on I’m still worrying. Only now it’s less to do with his age and more about him coming home safely from Afghanistan and such places… But that’s the price we Forces Mums have to pay for bringing up such brave, caring and thoughtful children in the first place.