Hero of the Month: LCpl Sam Greenfield (1982 – 2012)
LCpl Sam Greenfield was a gentle father, beloved husband and loyal soldier in the Royal Engineers.
Sam joined the Army aged 16, as soon as he left school, and served for 13 years. Over this time, he completed operational tours of Afghanistan, Northern Ireland and the Congo.
On the 4th of March 2012, Sam died in a fatal road accident. He was 29 years old. His sons, Sean, Harris-James and Jacob were just seven, two, and eleven months old.
“He was the softest, doziest person you’d ever meet,” says Charlene, Sam’s wife. “He enjoyed going out and playing cricket, but most of the time he just wanted to spend time with the kids. He was always a total family man and couldn’t bring himself to tell the kids off if he tried. I put Sean in time out once and Sam went and sat on the stairs with him, because he didn’t want him to feel alone.”
Sam joined the Royal Engineers in 1999, and immediately fell in love with the lifestyle.
“He absolutely loved the military life. He could be very quiet, but the military brought him out of his shell and gave him somewhere he felt he belonged. He joined straight out of school. It was all he’d ever wanted to do.”
A few years later, Sam met Charlene and the pair were married within twelve months.
“One of my favourite memories is our wedding day,” says Charlene. “His birth name was Kevin, but everyone called him Sam. I didn’t find out he was actually called Kevin until our wedding day, when we were doing our vows. I said, ‘who the hell is Kevin?’ He said, ‘that’s my name on my birth certificate,’ and started going bright red. I asked him why he didn’t go by Kevin – he told me he just didn’t like it.”
Later, Sam and Charlene would welcome their three children – Sean, Harris-James and Jacob. Sam took to fatherhood immediately and spent as much time with the boys as possible whenever he was home, playing games and being their best friend.
“He was absolutely the soft one out of us and completely brilliant with the kids. If they were sick he’d stay with them all night, and they were always having fun. Sean loved everything to do with the Army, so Sam would take him out and they’d play all kinds of Army games together.”
His dad’s influence had a profound impact on Sean, who is now 19 years old and in the process of applying to join the military.
“It’s all he’s ever wanted to do,” says his mum.
Sean isn’t the only one to take after his dad. All three children resemble him in their own special way.
“Harris-James is the spitting image of Sam. He’s his double, from the way he smiles to his mannerisms to the way he eats. He’s just his dad. He even tries to wind me up the same way, rustling crisp packets by my ear. Jacob is more like me, but even though he doesn’t remember Sam, he still speaks like him.”
Every year, Charlene and the boys like to get together and release a balloon in Sam’s memory. They think about him all year round, but in particular on key dates such as birthdays, Christmas and Remembrance.
“Remembrance is a weird feeling. It makes you so proud your chest could burst, but it’s always mixed with the heartbreak of looking around you and remembering why you’re all there. And none of you should have to be.”
Despite the pain it causes, Remembrance and other military events are very important to Charlene and her family, helping them feel connected to Sam and the life they left behind.
“Keeping that military connection is really important to us. Two weeks after Sam died, we were asked to leave the house we lived in on the garrison, and that was our last connection to the military. We didn’t just lose Sam, we lost that whole military community the kids had grown up with. Attending certain events, especially the different Scotty events, helps us feel closer to the military again in a really positive way."
Since joining Scotty’s in 2014, Sean, Harris-James and Jacob have benefitted from Scotty Breaks, grants, Christmas parties and the option to access to one-to-one bereavement support. Through these events, they have been able to meet lots of bereaved military children who can understand and relate to what they’ve been through.
“When you’re at a Scotty event you just feel normal,” says Charlene. “In daily life, people will occasionally ask the kids things like ‘where’s your dad?’ Or they’ll assume we’re a single parent family by choice. With Scotty’s, you’re all in the same boat and everyone knows why you’re there. It’s like being back on the bases with the other military families.”
Charlene and the boys have attended a number of special Scotty events over the years, but their favourite was a brand-new even they attended earlier this year – Scotty's Adventure Day.
“We all had such a great time at the Adventure Day. Afterwards the kids said they liked it even more than the Christmas party. I couldn’t believe it, as they love the Christmas party. I think it was because the Adventure Day was so active and physical, and there was a little bit of everything. There was also a real focus on stuff like resilience, which really resonated with the boys.”
She continues: “Thanks to Scotty’s, I know that even on days I’m struggling, or if there’s something I can’t help them with, they have someone they can talk to. There’s always going to be someone on the other end of that phone.”