During the height of lockdown, we asked you and your kids to get creative in photography, arts & crafts, videography and written word/audio as part of our Forces Voices competition.
All written word/audio entries were judged by Amanda Prowse, a forces wife and International Bestselling author who has had twenty-four novels and six novellas published in dozens of languages around the world.
Here is a highly commended adult entry and the story behind it.
Storytellers Are My Heroes: Samara-Alana Smith
"Having more time during the lockdown gave me the chance to think about how I have dealt with other difficult times in the past, and I had the time to express all of this by writing it down.
"This piece is about the power of sharing memories and stories and how important it can be to find our voices and have them respected and acknowledged."
Storytellers Are My Heroes: Samara-Alana Smith
Most of what I remember, what I can count as my experiences of being in a military family, have taken me from childhood to adulthood.
I find that I am still unravelling them today, still trying to fully understand all that those memories make me feel.
Being part of a military family has meant that I have experienced in some way, the outcomes of many of the conflicts of recent years.
The troubles in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, both Gulf Wars and of course Afghanistan to name a few.
Whilst as a child I didn’t understand everything going on around me, I did notice when things were happening that caused sadness and other changes in the people around me.
And this made my view of the world and expectations for life very specific.
This has undoubtedly led to social differences between my friends, colleagues and in every relationship you can think of.
It took me a long time into adulthood, to understand the differences. I experimented with ways of maybe discussing these darker aspects of my past and found it hard to get people to understand.
Or be able to find a comparison in their personal experiences.
I have struggled to find my voice.
Even for me, who does not see it as a negative experience and has a sense of pride in the connection.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, I have realised that the general public have been experiencing an atmosphere of dread, of fear, of loss of loved ones or even those barely known.
Of difficulty in living day to day life, in lack of communication with loved ones.
This is as close a comparison to the emotions that I have experienced due to military life, that I have ever heard described by civilians.
During the pandemic, people have been scrapbooking and putting together bits and pieces that will remind them, and help them explain to their loved ones, this moment of important social history in the future.
There are all sorts of ways to capture and store moments of personal history in the 21st century.
It is nothing to blog, tweet, Instagram, video diary and use all kinds of other methods to store, preserve, and show to others your personal thoughts and feelings.
Everyone has their inspirations, their passions, their need to tell a story, and their own personal ways of doing just that.
Everyone’s voice is expressed and heard in a slightly different way.
The thing I have come to understand, that I cherish the most about being part of a military family and part of the military community as a whole is the way that life is often lived with abandonment.
Something about the environment that everyone is caught up in creates an ideal stage for storytelling.
For “remember when’s” and nicknames. And gives permission for the highs and achievements of life to be enjoyed and remembered.
Memories are pulled out and examined and kept to be used later when they are needed the most.
There is a special type of humour that exists, that allows the same jokes to be retold time and time again and never get boring, because of their constant relevance to the intense, terrifying and impenetrable view of the world that living with the military creates.
For me, this has been the special undefinable thing that I find myself trying to replicate, in a world outside of the military.
I want to create more special memories of things I remember, not just for the things happening, but for the way that makes me feel.
Memories that make my heart beat faster. Such as those that make me want to hear the comforting sound of planes landing, and feel the rumble go through my feet as they do.
These are much more than memories, they help me to relive the joy of someone special coming home. And now are a comforting link to events that created who I am as a person.
Military life also caused feelings in me as a child that I didn’t like, that I needed to escape from.
And for me, this was often done by stories.
My favourite book as a child was Ballet Shoes, I was enchanted by the world of the theatre.
By the references to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and longed to be a fairy, and fly across the stage the way the Hercules planes that came to be a huge part of my world, flew across the skies.
Today I find that I am constantly searching for spaces where I feel safe to remember with abandon;
To use my “Forces Voice”.
Where I can pull out my treasured stories and laugh about them or just have a good cry.
Because not all the memories and feelings are good.
There are those that are dark, and cause me to feel guilty about causing anyone else pain by sharing them.
As a teenager I took every opportunity I was lucky enough to be offered to get on stage, I dived headfirst into the world of theatre.
I read voraciously, longing to hear about how characters dealt with their highs and lows, I longed to be in the world of Verona and to be friends with Juliet.
She also was surrounded by conflict; Experienced many undefinable feelings, and making her come to life often helped me to deal with my world.
Stories have always been a view into how to deal with some of the difficult experiences military life threw my way.
Where else can you experience someone else’s abandon and feel absorbed in their world?
Where else can you see how others deal with deep, dark, terrifying encounters, and feel like someone else is struggling and that you are not alone?
Losing myself in a story gives me somewhere to feel with that pure abandon, that I find to be the thing I miss the most about the military world.
And more than watching and reading.
More than allowing yourself to feel emotions that you deny yourself when thinking about your own life.
There is that special freedom that losing yourself in the world's words can create, can provide.
Where you can stop being you for just a little bit.
And without realising it you can get rid of some of those unhelpful thoughts you have because of your own story, and experiment with feeling again because of someone else’s story.
But, what happens when you move away from these magical other worlds. And are ready to start to hear about your own world?
Or need to share your own stories and memories?
In my eyes, people are brave for keeping their important moments alive.
Even more admirable are those who are open to listening to other's memories.
For letting anyone use their voice to share their stories and memories.
For welcoming anyone into the moment.
The reasons why people share their stories and memories are endless.
And how it effects someone will always be personal, and we may never see the impact.
All we can do is learn to be respectful, and encouraging, and accepting of the fact that it has taken guts to share something personal.
Where would I be without stories to try telling?
What else provides such a huge range of experiences and thoughts to experiment with?
All tales are relevant to my experiences of the military and of conflict because reading, watching or listening manages to put into words every emotion on the human spectrum.
It almost doesn’t matter if the story that is being told has nothing to do with your own world directly.
What matters is the behaviours and emotions of characters, real or imagined.
Because they are and always will be, recognised by someone, somewhere.
And this is why finding our voice, and telling our stories and sharing our memories and having them acknowledged and respected is so essential.
You can view more lockdown creative masterpieces here.