Wakefield Trinity winger, Tom Johnstone, has admitted he is “immensely proud” of what his father has achieved as he reflects on his Dad’s scarifies ahead of Remembrance Day 2021.
Born in Germany in 1995, Johnstone spent a large portion of his youth in a small town called Fallingbostel, residing with his mum and his two siblings in the nearby army barracks.
With his father based in the European country for much of Johnstone’s early years, he did a lot of travelling as a youngster, moving to Edinburgh before heading back over to Germany.
Life was quiet in the rural village, liaising with children in a very similar situation as his own, the England winger had to adjust to life back in the UK when his dad left the army, eventually settling in Leeds.
“I remember a couple of tours he went on in the early part of my years, being sent to the gulf, before being sent off elsewhere,” Johnstone explained.
“My family and I had to go to these big army meet-up days, where we had to go up on stage and speak to him on video call because we hadn’t seen him in six months.
“I remember my mum getting quite emotional, he had to write a will before he went and everything else that comes with it, as we didn’t know if he was going to come back.
“My brother, who is five years older than me, had to pick up the pieces when I was growing up, looking after me and my sister as well as helping my mum out.
“So, I remember him not being around then as much, but it was always good when he came home, obviously.”
Being away from their family and children is every parent’s nightmare, however, when Johnstone’s father left for a tour, it could be six months or even a year until they saw their loved one back in the flesh.
Now, after becoming a dad himself earlier this year, Johnstone couldn’t imagine spending one minute away from his son and knows the sacrifice it takes to join the Armed Forces.
“I definitely think about the people who have to go on tour and leave their family, especially when they have just had a child,” he explained.
“I couldn’t imagine not being there for the past eight months with my son. It can make it quite tough to watch, especially when you see people who don’t come home.
“Luckily, we didn’t have that, and I have asked my dad in more detail, but he was always reluctant to shed some light on what went on over there and I am sure he has dealt with some pretty tough things as well.”
With the huge amount of pride that went with knowing his dad served in the army, Johnstone admitted that he was very nearly swayed in his teenage years.
However, the winger decided against it and instead of crossing no man’s land, he has been crossing the whitewash in Red, White & Blue.
“I did have a bit of a wobble when I was 17, when I wasn’t fully into Rugby and I was looking at alternative options,” he said, looking back on his childhood decision.
“I did think about it, however, when it came to the serious thought process, I don’t think that I am brave enough and I just know that I don’t have it in me.
“I am not sure how he [his dad] coped with it, and he normally just laughs it off, but it must take some serious grit to be able to do that.”
For people like Tom and his family, Remembrance Day is a date in the calendar used to reflect on what his father went through, but also a time to think about all the others who served our country over the years, something he is proud to associate himself with.
“It [Remembrance Day] is really important to me,” said Johnstone.
“I can forget sometimes how proud I am of my dad and what he has done, so it offers me some time to reflect on the sacrifice he made and the things he has achieved.”