“You go from being married and having a family then suddenly they are gone”

12-year-old Jessica’s mum tells her story

Army Widow, Amy Lawrence, and her daughter Jessica (12), lost their hero, father and husband, Trooper Phillip Lawrence, on 27th July 2009, after his convoy was hit by an IED while on tour in Afghanistan.  Jess was just eight months old at the time.

Trooper Phillip Lawrence

For Amy and Jess, the last 11 years have been incredibly hard learning to live without their hero. For Jess in particular, who is now 12 years old, growing up without any memories of her dad has caused an immense amount of frustration and anger.

Amy, (35), from Norwich, shares her story and explains how losing her husband has impacted the life of her daughter, how they remember and how national bereaved Armed Forces children’s charity, Scotty’s Little Soldiers, has helped them create new happy memories.

Amy and Phil met in September 2006. Amy recalls: “We met on a night out over drinks, but a couple of months later he went to Afghanistan on his first tour, so we decided to stay friends. He came back at the beginning of 2007 and we got more serious and decided to get married in February 2008, in Norwich. He was 19 and I was 21.”

Their daughter Jess came along in November 2008, just a few months before Phil was once again deployed to Afghanistan. Amy remembers: “Phil went to Afghanistan again in April 2009, he came home on his R&R in June and then went back out for a few more months, but he was killed before I got to see him again.”

Trooper Lawrence was just 22 years old when he died, he served with the Light Dragoons and was killed when the convoy he was driving was struck by an IED. As the driver of the tank, he took the full force of the bomb when it set off, killing him instantly.

Trooper Phillip Lawrence on tour

For Amy, who was at home nursing her eight-month-old baby, her world immediately turned upside down. She said: “I went into shock when I was told. Jess was eight months old. I didn’t know what to say or do or how to react, but for some reason I knew I needed to take the medals off Phil’s uniform before they took it away. He’d told me that.

“If I look back now, I can’t really remember anything else to be honest. You go from being married and having a family and making decisions together and then suddenly that person’s gone, and you don’t know which way to turn, where you’re going to live. It’s changed us an awful lot.”

Jess never really knew her dad. Amy said: “Jess gets frustrated because she can’t remember her daddy and she’s only got a few pictures of him with her. She only knows what people tell her of him. It’s little things like going to parents evening without both parents there, and when other children have their daddies visit who are firemen and policemen and she wants her daddy to go in as a soldier.

“Phil and I had only been together three years before he was killed and it took me four or five years to get my head straight and make sure Jess was still happy. Phil’s friends have been great, she idolizes them.”

Always the first to volunteer for anything, Phil was described by his comrades as ‘being the most cheerful, helpful and friendly person you could hope to meet’.

A doting husband and father, Amy has some fond memories of their time together which she shares with Jess. She said: “Phil was always so positive about life and just wanted the best for people. The main thing I miss about him is his fun, caring nature, and his infectious laugh.”

Amy added: “He was taken from me and Jess too soon and I miss that he has missed out on watching his daughter grow up and how much alike they are. She’s missed out and has no memories of the person and character Phil was and doesn’t really know how much he loved her.”

As a way of remembering her dad and helping build memories for Jess, the pair always do something special for Phil’s anniversary. Amy said: “We always plan ahead and do something fun that day, whether it’s a day at his favourite place to go as a child, such as Chester Zoo, or we go away with family to make new fun memories that I know Phil would be proud of.”

Jessica Lawrence (12)

The family also find the support provided by Scotty’s Little Soldiers to be crucial. Having the opportunity to make new friends and share her experience with those who understand has been incredibly helpful.

Amy said: “We’ve started making happy memories through Scotty’s Little Soldiers. Jess has been a member since 2011 and her face lights up when she sees the Scotty’s sticker on a letter or parcel in the post for her.”

Amy added: “For Jess it’s also knowing that there are other children who know exactly how she’s feeling, she’s made some great friends over the years which has helped build her confidence. They all know what she’s going through, and they can all support one another. It’s the little things that make such a big difference to us.”

Jessica Lawrence raising money for Scotty’s Little Soldiers.

“Jess has had some fantastic experiences thanks to Scotty’s. We were both invited to Norwich City Football Club and Jess walked on to the pitch before kick off with the match ball. This was a big moment for her, walking out in front of thousands of people but she thoroughly enjoyed it. She also got to meet other Scotty’s members. It was just really nice, all the children of all different ages. We love Scotty’s and it’s not just Jess, it’s helped me a lot as well because I’ve met a lot of friends who are also widows and they really understand.”

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