Portsmouth soldier kept from his children for a year due to Covid-19 has unforgettable reunion thanks to landmarks across the city
A SOLDIER separated from his children for almost a year due to the pandemic has been reunited with them for a day out in Portsmouth they will never forget.
Kyle Parks, who was brought up in Eastney, had been stationed with the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment in Cyprus since April 2019 and was on leave in Germany when the pandemic brought global travel to a standstill.
It meant the dad-of-two was last able to see his children Kai, aged eight, and Bonnie, aged six, for just a few hours in October 2020.
Now that his regiment has been rotated to barracks in Woolwich, Kyle has finally been reunited with his children – taking them on a Portsmouth-wide hunt for pirate ‘gold’ thanks to clues hidden by obliging staff at the city’s landmarks.
The News joined the fun by printing a cryptic poem in our letters page on Saturday, as part of the quest that also involved clues and gifts at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the Canteen in Old Portsmouth’s Round Tower, Southsea Hoverport, Clarence and South Parade piers, Southsea’s Blue Reef Aquarium, and a library in Milton.
The bad weather on Saturday meant plans for a big finish on the beach had to be moved indoors to Kyle’s parents’ house but that didn’t spoil the fun.
With the treasure chest of chocolate coins now safely found – and eaten – Kyle says the unforgettable reunion is testament to the city’s community spirit and its unquestioning support for those serving in the armed forces.
The 35-year-old said: ‘As soon as I said I was in the armed services, they wanted to help. So many people have said their brother or their partner was in the Royal Navy.
‘Everyone wanted to help – you can go anywhere and you wouldn’t find the same sort of people as in Portsmouth.’
The infantryman added: ‘I think people forget there were a lot of people posted away from home. I’m just one story out of thousands.’
Kyle, who has served for more than 13 years, hopes his story will highlight the toll the pandemic has taken on families separated due to loved ones serving overseas.
He said: ‘I last saw my kids in October last year – I saw them for only eight hours. Normally, I would have seen them every three months.
‘I was on guard one day and I did the maths and realised how long it had been – I hadn’t seen them or hugged them for over a year – it really hit me.
‘I was just devastated – I thought I had let them down. As their dad, could I have made more of an effort to get home? But I couldn’t – I was stranded on the island.’
‘Watching them grow up through a screen...it’s been hard.’
The idea for a epic treasure hunt came to solider after remembering a day out to the Isle of Wight with his father – who had convinced people on the island to speak French so to convince his son that they had gone abroad.
Kyle said: ‘I still remember that and I’m in my thirties - and I wanted to do the same thing for my kids.
‘I want them to grow up and say, ‘do you remember when dad turned all of Portsmouth into a treasure hunt - that was awesome.’
And it seems like Bonnie and Kai won’t be forgetting their big day out any time soon.
Bonnie summed up the day with just one word – ‘awesome’ – while Kai rated the day a respectable ‘10,000 out of 10,000’.
Grinning from ear to ear and with a fistful of chocolate doubloons in each hand, he added: ‘I have the world’s best dad.’