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Let's not forget the families left behind

As more servicemen and women ready themselves to deploy overseas in the wake of Parliament's decision to carry out RAF air strikes in Syria, it is important to remember the loved ones they will leave behind.

A Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 A Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 (Image: Crown Copyright)

For serving personnel they are simply doing the job they trained for; answering their country's call.

But for their families it can be a worrying time. Although these kind of short notice deployments happen all year round, it is especially difficult at Christmastime. Personally having spent long periods away from my family while serving overseas with the RAF, I know what it is like.

As the RAF's leading welfare charity, the RAF Benevolent Fund knows only too well the challenges those families will face.

That is why we have been here, supporting the families, as well as those serving and the many veterans, in their hour of need for almost 100 years.

Young people with a parent in the RAF face all the stresses and strains of growing up but they also have to cope with being uprooted from schools and friends every time a parent gets a new posting.

They also have to cope with mum or dad being deployed not knowing when they will next see or speak to them. Our Airplay Youth Support programme is run on all the main RAF stations and provides youth clubs, play parks and childcare centres.

For the youngsters themselves, Airplay youth support offers the chance to spend time with other children who are in similar situations and specially trained youth workers who understand the issues they are experiencing. And by giving RAF children and young people the facilities and activities they deserve, we believe Airplay will take some of the strain off RAF personnel and their partners, whether at home or on the frontline.

Next week I will have the pleasure of opening two more seaside apartments at the Fund's Princess Marina House respite care home in West Sussex. Together with two existing seaside cottages, these apartments will provide families who have been separated by deployment the chance to reconnect in a home-from-home environment and spend quality time together.

Whatever challenges the RAF family faces, like the RAF, the RAF Benevolent Fund stands ready to assist.

By Chris Nickols, Controller of the RAF Benevolent Fund

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