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Latest survey from SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity reveals:

  • 56% of military families have been apart for once-in-a-lifetime moments, like the birth of a child or their first words
  • 81% of the civilian population didn’t know that military deployment can be up to 10 months

Aiming to highlight the unique challenges faced by military families, SSAFA surveyed the Forces community past and present on the impact that serving has on family moments. The results have shown there is another level to the sacrifices they make for our Nation – and proved that these are not always understood by the civilian population.

The main points are:

Over a third of military families (34%) said that they have been separated for ten months or longer due to the demands which come with their choice of career – which can involve travelling to remote areas of the UK for training, deployment abroad and being on a tour of duty within conflict zones. 81% of the civilians surveyed had no idea that military personnel could be away from home for so many months.

Nearly three quarters (72%) of respondents from military families said they’ve not been together for significant family events like birthdays, weddings, funerals and anniversaries, with over half (56%) stating that they have missed major moments in their children’s lives, such as their first words, first steps, first day at school – and even the birth of a child!

With family time together being so precious, nearly half of military families (48%) said that when they do get to spend time together as a family they feel ‘pressured’ to enjoy time that they have, putting an extra strain on these moments to be perfect.

 In addition to extended time apart, the survey has revealed that over a third (37%) of military families have been forced to delay some of life’s major milestones, such as getting married, buying a house, and starting a family, due to a long deployment.

Interestingly, it has emerged that younger members of the military community are being more affected by this. When questioned, two thirds (66%) of military families aged 16-24 stated that they have delayed a major life event, compared to only one in ten (10%) of those aged 55+.


Historic images of troops embarking for war rarely capture the sense of loss felt by families as their loved-ones sail over the horizon. We are now a lot more open about such matters – but still tend to deal with the stresses and strains in a very private way.

Justine Baynes, Director at SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, said: 

“It’s easy to forget that serving in our Armed Forces means more than defending the Nation – there is also a human price that every member of the military pays. Being away from home and your loved ones for any period can be difficult – but imagine doing it for months at a time with limited communication. Whilst it is accepted to be a part of the job at hand, it’s important that we remember that missing birthdays, school plays and those special moments that create memories can take a toll. SSAFA understands the many challenges faced by military families – that’s why we have been supporting the Armed Forces family for over 130 years.”

SSAFA provides lifelong support and offers practical, emotional or financial assistance to the whole Armed Forces community, understanding the complex nature of military service and the effect it can have on the wider family. From help with school runs and hospital appointments to an understanding shoulder to lean on – SSAFA is there.

To help SSAFA to support our military personnel, veterans and their families, please visit


About the survey: 

  1. Survey carried out in September 2018 by Censuswide
  2. Censuswide surveyed 1,348 of the British public as part of this survey.
  3. Censuswide surveyed 658 military personnel, families and partners, as part of this survey.

Comments on Missed moments: the sacrifices made by Forces families

There is 1 comment on Missed moments: the sacrifices made by Forces families

  1. Comment by Mrs E ives

    Mrs E ives

    My husband missed the births of our first and second children.
    He was away for over 9 months the second time. Not allowed home though an officer, whose wife was in ward with me, was when his baby arrived.
    First child was born when he was on exercise in UK but he didn’t get home till it was all over and only allowed 2 days with me…even though baby was premature.
    My husband missed many family events including weddings. He was often away for more than 5…6 months.

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