Sheryl Godwin talks about life as a Military Wife
“As a military wife you have to accept that this is their job and make the most of it.”
The much-anticipated Military Wives film has finally been released in cinemas, but what is it really like to be a military wife?
Sheryl Godwin knows only too well what it’s like being married to a man in the Forces. Her husband, RAF Flight Lieutenant David Godwin, spent 37 years serving in the RAF, and Sheryl and their sons had no choice but to get used to him being away.
Just like some of the women featured in the film, Sheryl kept herself busy and built a support network after she established the Military Wives Choir at RAF Stafford.
Tragically, Sheryl lost her husband, RAF Flight Lieutenant David Godwin, on 2nd October 2017, and she needed the support of her military wife choir friends more than ever.
David was 54 years old when he passed away, and for Sheryl and her two sons, coming to terms with David’s death has been incredibly hard.
Losing a loving husband and father has turned their lives upside down. Although Sheryl admits she is still ‘in survival mode’, she has found solace in her singing as part of the Military Wives Choir and for the family, support from charity Scotty’s Little Soldiers has offered them a lifeline.
It was through a mutual friend that Sheryl first met Dave, she was 19 and he was 24. Already serving in the RAF, Dave was living in Lincolnshire at the time, while Sheryl was living in Staffordshire. However, the distance wasn’t a problem as the pair instantly fell for one another and continued to meet up at weekends. Sheryl recalls “I just knew I was going to marry him”.
Sheryl and Dave married four years later in 1991 and were posted to RAF Scampton where military life for Sheryl first began. This was a new way of life for Sheryl but looking back she has fond memories. “I was really lucky” she said, “as Dave had a good network of friends who I quickly got to know, and although Dave was posted away quite a bit I never felt alone.”
In 1993, Sheryl and Dave moved to MOD St Athan in South Wales where they spent the next 18 years. It was in South Wales that Sheryl had her two boys.
Then in 2011 they moved to RAF Benson before moving to RAF Stafford in 2013. During this time Dave had become a logistics officer, which meant he was away a lot. He was deployed once to Cyprus and twice to Afghanistan, each visit lasting between three and six months. This was a difficult time for the whole family, she recalls: “As a military wife you have to accept that this is their job and make the most of it. There is no point counting down the days until they go because that can be heart breaking. I simply used to tell myself ‘he is gone’ and keep to a routine.
“But it certainly wasn’t easy, especially around Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s Day because it makes it even more poignant when they aren’t there. It also impacted the boys, and my youngest would say ‘mummy I don’t want daddy to die’. I asked him ‘why do you think he is going to die?’ and he’d reply, ‘because he has gone away again.’ I explained people go on holidays to Cyprus, but I obviously didn’t tell him that Dave was probably in one of the most dangerous places.
“That was hard and as they got older, they worried constantly when they saw TV reports about it all kicking off in Afghanistan and knowing their dad was out there.”
To keep herself busy and build a support network of women who knew what she was going through, Sheryl established the Military Wives Choir at RAF Stafford. Sheryl explains: “Singing in a choir is such a great way of forming friends and the support network is incredible. They know what you are going through. After Dave’s death they were all incredible supportive and I knew I could turn to them if I needed them, day or night.”
Tragically in 2017, just two years after the family had decided to start planning life beyond the military, Dave passed away. Everything Sheryl and the boys had ever known had changed in seconds.
For Sheryl’s sons, who were nine and 15 at the time, their dad, their hero, was gone!
Sheryl turned to Scotty’s Little Soldiers for support a few months after Dave’s death. The charity was set-up in 2010 by Army widow, Nikki Scott in memory of her husband Corporal Lee Scott to support bereaved British Forces children. Nikki and Lee had two children and she saw first-hand the effect the loss of a loved one in these circumstances can have on a child.
Sheryl said: “My youngest was very badly affected by Dave’s death and he’s still dealing with it, but Scotty’s has been absolutely amazing in helping us get through it. I can’t quite believe what the team do for the children and the amount of work, passion and commitment you receive from all the team is just incredible.
“There are a lot of things we just wouldn’t have been able to do without Scotty’s. They have just provided my eldest with a grant for driving lessons and he’s about to go on an Outward-Bound course this summer all thanks to Scotty’s.
“They have been an incredible support and without them I’m not sure we’d have got through the last few years.”