Emily and James lost their father, a serving member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), when they were just 6 and 8 years old. He died at 42 years of age.
Thanks to the generosity of Legacy supporters, Legacy has helped ensure that Emily and James, and thousands of children like them, have not been socially or financially disadvantaged because of a parent’s service.
Children are especially vulnerable following the loss of a parent.
That’s why our Legatees play such an important role in the lives of veterans’ children.
These dedicated volunteers play a vital role as mentors and sounding boards and work one-on one with families to ensure they have access to the right mix of financial, emotional and social support from Legacy.
For James and Emily, it was Legatee Brian Hollins who took on that very special role.
Brian came into the children’s lives not long after they lost their father. As a former Army Officer, Brian understood the children’s pain all too well. He too had lost his ADF father when he was child and he and his brother were cared for by Legacy.
In an incredible twist of fate, Brian had served in the Army alongside James and Emily’s father, Major Michael Wiltshire, who devoted 20 years of his life in service to our nation.
In the 15 years since Brian became James and Emily’s Legatee, he has become a close family friend; encouraging and mentoring the siblings as they have grown into adulthood and supporting their mother Kerrie whenever she needed it.
And it was Legatee Brian who introduced the children to Legacy Camps. As you will read, it is these camps – the friendships they formed and the acceptance they found there – which they credit with changing the course of their adult lives.
That should not be so surprising. The impact of losing a parent is devastating, but connecting with peers who can offer support, acceptance and understanding is immensely beneficial in helping young people overcome the overwhelming grief they are experiencing.
James and Emily are immensely grateful to Brian and Legacy. Both say Legacy’s ongoing support has played a huge role in helping them become who they are today.
James has vivid memories of the first time he was welcomed into the Legacy Family at a Christmas party he attended when he was eight years old.
A few years later, he and his sister attended their first Legacy Youth Camp.
That first Legacy Camp left an indelible imprint on the mind of the then ten-year-old Emily. She was only in Grade One when her father died: and the years that followed were a difficult and bewildering time.
“I remember always feeling different at school…being the kid whose father had died”, she recalls.
“By the end of that first Legacy Camp, I realised that everyone there had lost a parent who had served. From that day on, there was a real sense of finally being understood. At Legacy, I felt ‘normal’.”
Her brother agrees. “Having that shared history of a parent who has served in the Defence Force and passed away or is permanently disabled: you don’t have to explain yourself… you feel like you fit in,” James reflected.