International Women’s Day Spotlight: RAF veteran and charity leader, Kirsty Bushell CBE

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07 March 2024

In the RAF Kirsty Bushell served in the UK, Germany, the Gulf, Norway, Cyprus, the USA, Canada and Kosovo. She has been a staunch supporter of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity for many years and is currently SSAFA's National Vice Chair.

Kirsty joined the RAF in 1987, at a time were there were few women serving in the military.

Kirsty said: “It was an amazing career for a young woman from a small town, despite being in a minority I had such a great time.”

Throughout her time at SSAFA, Kirsty has championed the support of serving families, having an intimate knowledge of how it feels to be left behind at home when people close to you are deployed. Speaking of a time, during the Iraq war, when Kirsty was pregnant, therefore not deployed, Kirsty recalls:

“When people [close to you] go away, the tension and emotional energy stay with you the whole time. It is an intense experience.

“In that time, these families had to keep life running as normal - hold down jobs and look after children.

“Often, they would be working with civilians or going to school with people who wouldn’t really understand what they were going through, because they haven’t had to deal with that sort of intense experience before.

“We know that for them [the families of deployed serving personnel] the evenings and weekends were long, and tough. Volunteer organisations like SSAFA would organise meet ups and events to bring people together, inform them and support them – and often distract them. Partners, children, mothers, fathers, siblings – they needed to be seen and understood.”

In 2024 over 20,000 troops will be deployed overseas, many of them leaving families at home.

Kirsty said: “On International Women’s Day I’m really proud to be supporting spouses and families of serving personnel and to have worked alongside so many strong women who were serving or supporting.”

Kirsty is helping to raise funds for the charity by completing the D-Day Cycle ride in France in June this year. The ride commemorates the brave people who crossed the Channel to start the liberation of Europe 80 years ago.

Kirsty says: “I’m looking forwards to the ride because there will be a great community of people coming together to pay our respects and remember those who didn’t, as well as those who did come home.”

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