Defence parents Lee and Barb have three daughters.
Two joined the Army Reserve whilst at university before transferring to undertake full time service. One daughter has since left the military whilst the other is still serving. They also have two sons-in-law currently serving in the Australian Army. We caught up with Lee and Barb on a visit to see family.
What impact has your children serving in the Australian Defence Force had on your lives?
Have the deployments worried you at times?
Barb: I think we’ve always worried. It’s always on our mind.
Lee: It’s always been a matter of concern. You can’t say it’s not a concern.
Lee: Technology is infinitely better than it was decades ago. I think in some ways it helps, some ways it doesn’t. It helps because you get direct contact. So, you know what’s happening now. Afterwards you can mull over it and think about it. But right at that time it’s good.
Barb: We have worried when they have been on deployment, but we can now ring and say, well, have you heard from them?
What has been the impact of Defence life on you, your children and grandchildren?
Barb: We have been very concerned about our grandchildren’s schooling and settling in each move.
Lee: Because each state is so different…
Barb: Another thing though … you also miss out on many special occasions.
Lee: I think we try to compensate by seeing them, or entertaining them at our place, for as often as is practical. In this particular case, this weekend it’s our daughter’s 40th birthday, so we’ve driven 1,800kms for a couple of days.
Over the past 20 years Lee and Barb have travelled across Australia (even overseas) to wherever their children have been posted to celebrate weddings, assist when babies were due, help out during periods of illness or times of important work commitments. Their assistance has been needed around deployment including one when a sudden family illness occurred, and Barb was contacted and flown from Victoria to North Queensland through the Emergency Support for Families Scheme (ESFS) provided by Defence Community Organisation (DCO).
The first time their son in law deployed on overseas operations their eldest daughter was expecting her second child. She remained at the posting location interstate to continue working until the final trimester, then travelled with their toddler from Queensland to stay with Lee and Barb in Victoria. After the baby was born the deployment was extended so their daughter found the extra support staying with them invaluable.
During a following deployment Lee and Barb along with the assistance of other extended family offered to take care of their two grandchildren so their daughter could travel to meet their son-in-law during Relief Out of Country Leave (ROCL).
When they were expecting a third child he was deployed again, this time at short notice. Despite now being posted in a different state their daughter was able to remain in that location until prior to the birth when they returned to stay again with Lee and Barb. Barb was able to be at the birth for the first time of all her seven grandchildren.
Barb: It was very special. It was great I could be there but at the same time I knew …I just wish…he could have been back.
Being able to support their children during military deployments has meant Lee and Barb are able to still share a special bond with their grandchildren despite them having lived most of their lives thousands of kilometres away, they know their love and support is cherished by the whole family.
Lee: It’s just part and parcel of what grandparents just do.
Barb: It’s a privilege to be able to support them. They are doing a great job for our country.
DFA acknowledges that not all Defence members have access to family support like the one outlined in this story. We recognise the impact service life can have on Defence parents and are grateful for their contribution.
Thank you to Lee and Barb for sharing your story with us.
(Lee and Barb are parents of one of our DFA team members)
Information on caring for someone in the ADF
The Defence Parents and Guardian Guide
For 24/7 Defence family assistance please contact:
Defence Family Helpline (DCO) 1800 624 608 or DefenceFamilyHelpline@defence.gov.au
Open Arms (formerly VVCS) 1800 011 046
With special thanks to Sean Davey Photographer www.seandavey.com.au