Hero of the month… Sergeant Kirt Connell 1982 – 2015
Once a year in November the whole world comes together to remember our fallen heroes, however, at Scotty’s Little Soldiers we know that for families who have lost someone who served in the Armed Forces, Remembrance Day is every day.
Every one of our members has lost a parent who served in the British Armed Forces, and we believe their lives and sacrifice should always be remembered. In our hero of the month posts we celebrate the lives of our members’ fallen heroes every month of the year.
This month we honour Sergeant Kirt Connell, a married father of two, who was killed whilst crossing the road outside Bergen Hohne camp in Germany.
Sergeant Kirt Connell (33) served in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) and was based in Germany with his family for much of his Army career.
It was on 14th February 2015, on his return to the British Army base in Bergen Hohne, that Sergeant Connell was hit by a speeding delivery truck and killed. He left behind his wife, Joanna, and two young girls, Kaitlyn and Sophie, who were just two and a half and 13 months old.
Over five years on and Jo can remember vividly the day she was told her husband was not coming home. Jo was on holiday with her daughters and friends at the time, with Kaitlyn due to ski for the first time the next day, when she received a visit from the British Embassy in Paris to say that Kirt had been involved in an accident and died at the scene.
With Kaitlyn and Sophie being so young, Jo explains how difficult it was to tell them that they would never see their daddy again. They flew back to Germany the following day and Jo recalls that this is when it all became real. She said: “How could I tell two young girls that their daddy would never be coming home. I told them that daddy had died and gone to be a star in the sky.”
When they arrived home the next day, Jo remembers everything being very strange for the children. She recalls there being lots of people coming and going, who shouldn’t have been there, and for her children this was the moment they realised. “It was all so strange for them, they were so young, but have dealt with everything so well.” said Jo.
A devoted husband and father, Kirt meant so much to so many people. He was an accomplished snowboarder and represented the REME. He also loved playing and watching Rugby and was even known to attempt to play football.
To Jo and his children, he was their hero. She describes him as “absolutely hilarious”, a man who knew how to make people laugh. Jo said: “He loved being the best father he could be. When the children came along, he always put them first, snatching a 30-minute dinner time with them even though he had to go back to work until after their bedtime.”
Snowboarding was one of Kirt’s biggest passions and having the opportunity to represent the REME at the REME Snowboarding Championships in 2009/2010 was one of his greatest achievements. Jo recalls: “It meant so much to him, representing his regiment, but he also loved being good at things. When he’d mastered a new skill, you couldn’t stop him.”
Looking back, Jo has some lovely memories of Kirt, both as a husband and as a father. One of her fondest memories was the night they met, she recalls how he stole her heart after defusing an argument with another lady on a night out, “I appreciated it, though I’m not sure she did” said Jo.
The pair worked together for a while before they got together and then, as Jo remembers, one day they just clicked, and that date was in October 2009. She said: “I don’t know what happened, I’d known of Kirt for a while when we started working together but then one day we just clicked and became as thick as thieves.”
At first, the pair kept their relationship quiet and then decided to tell the world and got married the following year, in 2010.
Kaitlyn came along in 2011, followed by Sophie in 2014. Both have spent the last five years trying to keep their dad’s memory alive. As they were so young, Kaitlyn and Sophie have very few memories of their dad, something they struggle with every day.
A year after Kirt’s death, Jo moved the girls from Germany back to the UK to be close to her family. It is incredibly important for her that the children grow up knowing who their dad was. After he died, Jo created a Daddy book for Kaitlyn which included photos of her with her daddy and memories which the family read together. The girls also spend a lot of time with close friends of their dad who tell them lots of funny stories about the things he used to get up to.
An important support network for the girls since losing their dad has been Scotty’s Little Soldiers. The girls joined the charity in 2016 and were introduced to the extended Scotty family at the Christmas Party. Jo said: “The support from Scotty’s is just incredible, it’s never ending without asking for it. We have never asked for more support than we need, and what we do get is amazing. The girls love it, we have created our own Scotty family and keep in touch throughout the year. Our children also get on really well.”
Jo and the girls have received enormous support over the years including gifts and vouchers on poignant days of the year, as well as a Scotty’s weekend break to Center Parcs.
Jo added: “Scotty’s mean so much, it means we get to meet other families like us and most importantly our children get the opportunity to relax in an environment where they are the same as everyone else. Life without Scotty’s would be very different.”
You can make a personal tribute to Kirt on this special webpage by clicking here.