Hero of the month… Colour Sergeant Anthony Oxley 1975 - 2016
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 experienced the death of someone who served in the Armed Forces, Remembrance Day is every day.
Every one of our members has experienced the death of 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 Colour Sergeant and Drum Major Anthony Oxley, who died on the 14th June 2016 aged 40-years-old, just four days after his youngest child’s second birthday. Anthony, a fun and loveable jokester with a wicked sense of humour, left behind his daughter Honiiee Mai now six years old, stepchildren, Courtney now 23, Harry (22) and Mason (17), wife Sally, and two children from a previous marriage, Charlie and Dion, following a fatal motorbike collision at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.
Anthony, a drum major with the 2nd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment (Duke of Wellington’s), joined the Army as a teenager and spent the next 21 years in the Forces, serving in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Anthony’s wife Sally described her husband: “There’s only one way to describe Anthony, or ‘Ox’ as we know him, a big jokester. If he wasn’t playing a prank on someone then we knew something was wrong. At 6ft 6in he was incredibly large in size, and certainly had the heart to match.
“Ox and I knew each other for 20 years and he eventually became my brother’s best friend. Following the breakups of our respective relationships, and much to my brother’s dismay, we became a couple and thought that would be our happy ending.”
Anthony became a doting stepfather to Sally’s three children, Courtney, Harry and Mason. Sally said: “Ox had always wanted more kids, and he became the perfect stepdad to my three children, taking them on as if they were his own. Always kind and patient, the kids went to him for anything and everything, and could always count on him.
“When Ox and I hit our late thirties, he told me how much he’d love for us to have a child of our own, and we decided to give it a year to see if I’d fall pregnant. On the eleventh month, while Ox was away at a motocross day, I took a pregnancy test and to my surprise it said pregnant! After nine more tests I finally began to believe it and put them in a gift bag, surprising him with it when he got home. To say he was elated when our daughter Honiiee Mai was born would be an understatement.”
Always finding something to keep himself occupied, Anthony loved tinkering with anything and everything, Sally explained: “Ox couldn’t help but try fix and improve everything, whether it was a bike, or something around the house. Sometimes it was for the better, but often it didn’t go to plan and he’d end up making things worse.
“One of my favourite memories of him was while we lived in Cyprus. As he was so tall, he had a big Jeep as he couldn’t fit in a normal car. He was always tinkering with it, and on this occasion, he was playing around with it just before we made our way to the beach. Throughout the journey he was persistently laughing to himself, and I couldn’t work out why. It was only when we hit the long stretch of road beside the beach, packed full of sunbathers, that he pressed the horn, and a booming train-sounding siren went off. While the sunbathers looked around panicked and in shock, Ox was hysterical.”
It wasn’t just Anthony’s sense of humour that Sally loved, it was his strong work ethic and calming demeanour which she also admired. Sally explained: “Ox was a Drum Major in the Yorkshire Regiment, and was loved by his colleagues, many of which still keep in contact with me to this day.
“He was awarded the Cutler Sword which meant he was the best drum major in the British Army for that year. He was so incredibly proud of it, as was I. He protected the sword like nothing else, and the only time he ever let me touch it was on our wedding day while we were cutting our cake.”
Devastatingly, it was just four days after their daughter Honiiee Mai turned two, that Anthony died in a motorbike collision while on base in Cyprus.
Sally spoke about the day Anthony died: “I’ll never forget the day it happened. At the time of the accident, I was home with a broken wrist looking after Honiiee Mai. During the days prior I struggled to bathe Honiiee Mai due to my arm, so Ox used to come home on an evening to help me. On the day of the collision, he left home in the morning on his motorbike and not long after, the incident occurred.
“When I got the call, I rushed to the hospital to be at his bedside and knew by the sight of him that it wasn’t looking good. Just a few hours after the collision, Ox took his last breath.”
Five months after Anthony died, the family joined Scotty’s Little Soldiers and found great comfort in the charity. Sally explained: “The children all reacted completely differently to Ox’s death. One found it extremely difficult in the beginning, another struggled more a couple of years down the line, and one held it together so well for the sake of the family, which also gave me concerns. Being so young, Honiiee Mai doesn’t have a lot of memories of her dad, but loves to dance to his former mobile ringtone song, ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams.
“Having Scotty’s support means everything to us. Even when we’re all feeling ok, just knowing that they’re there if and when we need them, is a huge source of comfort. Just like we celebrate our important moments, so does Scotty’s, never missing a birthday, Christmas, or the anniversary of their dad’s death. They’ve even gifted us with trips to Center Parcs for some special family time which worked wonders. It’s touches like these that make you realise how special Scotty’s really is.
“It’s really interesting looking back. Prior to Ox passing, my father also sadly passed away a few months prior. At the funeral we collected donations for charity and I was unsure which one to pick. My brother, knowing I was struggling to choose, suggested a charity I hadn’t heard of before, it was Scotty’s Little Soldiers. Once he told me about it, I knew instantly I wanted to give them the donations. Little did I know that just a few months later, my children would be members and benefit from their unwavering support.”