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Remembering my military dad at Christmas


Christmas – a time for family and friends to get together, give gifts and have fun. It’s what we’re told everywhere we look, whether it’s on TV, down the high street or even just in casual conversation. For those days and weeks leading up to the end of the year, Christmas is almost impossible to avoid.

For many, the run-up to the 25th of December is a time of celebration, but for bereaved military children and young people, it can be a very emotional period. When the entire country is excitedly talking about spending time with their loved ones, it can be extremely difficult for those children and young people who know they cannot.

One such young person is Scotty Member Matthew Davies. When Matthew was just one, his dad, 27-year-old Royal Marine Damian Davies, was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. He died on the 12th of December 2008, two weeks before Christmas.

A young Matthew with his dad, Royal Marine Damian Davies

What is Christmas like for a bereaved military young person?

“Christmas is a bit of a weird one for me,” says Matthew. “It’s my favourite holiday, but I’m also very aware the end of the year is when Dad died. I can feel very conflicted sometimes. It effects the whole Christmas period, but the anniversary of my dad’s death is definitely the most difficult day. I’ll sometimes be feeling very happy, because we’re approaching Christmas, but then he randomly appears in my head and suddenly I’m feeling a bit rubbish.” 

Matthew isn’t the only the only one who feels a close connection to Christmas. His dad, Damian, was also known for his love of the festive period. 

It was dad’s favourite holiday as well, which somehow gives it a bit more weight as well. I go from happy to sad and back again quite a lot. I want to just get on with everything and feel good, but at the same time that seems wrong.”

Matthew holding his Scotty's Christmas gift

Sharing Christmas stories

“We always talk about dad at Christmas and people often tell me how similar we both are. He loved a good biscuit, for a start, and would eat them by the handful. Sometimes he’d apparently just sit there and work through a whole packet, which I can relate to. He a was a witty guy and everyone loved him. He enjoyed taking things slow – he was an old soul, like that. All his friends called him grandad. People call me an old soul as well, which is a connection I really like knowing we have.” 

Matthew and his family don’t have any set-in-stone traditions remembering Damian at Christmas. Instead, they prefer simply talking about him and remembering the time they spent together. 

“We have photo albums so we can look over pictures of dad and remember him whenever we want. I always like when people talk to me about him since I don’t remember anything myself. Being told those stories makes him feel more real to me.”

Matthew being held by his dad

Scotty’s Christmas support

Since joining Scotty’s in 2011, Matthew has benefitted from focussed support around the Christmas period, ranging from optional Christmas drop-in sessions with other bereaved military children and young people to receiving vouchers and Christmas presents every year to remind him he’s not alone.

“It's always a good day when I see that big box with the little Scotty’s sticker on it. The messages Scotty’s send around that time cheer me up a bit too, because it reminds me that someone's there and they understand it can be tough sometimes. It shows that Scotty’s actually listen and remember. Every gift feels personal.”

Over the years, Matthew has received a wide variety of gifts from Scotty’s - all chosen specifically for him. But what was his favourite? 

“When I was really little, Scotty’s sent me an Xbox 360. That was brilliant. It makes me feel old thinking about it, since it’s now quite an old video game console. There have also been smaller, more sentimental presents that were really nice, like the Scotty medal with my dad’s name on it.”

Matthew with a group of Scotty's Members at our 2022 Winter Festival

Scotty’s Winter Festival

Of all the services and events Scotty’s offer around Christmas, however, Matthew has a clear favourite – the Winter Festival. 

“The 2022 Christmas party was in Shropshire, where I live, so that was a nice surprise. Despite being one of the ones, I had a really good time. It was probably my favourite Scotty party I’ve been too. I feel like you’re pretty much guaranteed a fun time no matter what. It's a great opportunity to meet a bunch of different people who are in the same situation as you, because sometimes I feel like people who haven’t gone through it can’t understand. It’s not the most common situation to be in, so it’s not like I can just go up to someone at school and expect them to relate.” 

He continues: 

“For me, Scotty’s means knowing there's always a great team you can count on if you need help with anything. They’re always there and always trying to help people smile. I’m currently studying Health and Social Care at college, as I want to be a paramedic, and knowing that as I get closer to that goal I can rely on Scotty’s for educational support, as well as the emotional support stuff, is just great.”

Matthew having fun at Scotty's Winter Festival

About Scotty’s

Scotty’s Little Soldiers is a military charity dedicated to supporting children and young people (0 to 25 years) who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces.   

Inspired by the experience of Army widow Nikki Scott, following the death of her husband Corporal Lee Scott in Afghanistan in 2009, the charity, which was set up in 2010, provides support and guidance to hundreds of bereaved military children and young people throughout their childhood.   

Scotty’s currently supports over 650 members and services offered include access to child bereavement support, guidance to parents and carers, personal education and learning assistance (including grants), and fun activities such as holiday respite breaks and group events. These are all designed to remind the children and young people supported by Scotty’s that they are not alone.   

If you know a child or young person who has experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces, they could be eligible for specialist bereavement support from Scotty's Little Soldiers. Hundreds of bereaved military children aren’t getting the support they need but we are here to help. 

If you know a bereaved military child who could benefit from Scotty’s Little Soldiers support, visit our Get Support page for more information. 

Matthew enjoying a Scotty break


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