War hero Johnson Beharry VC revealed he and his wife Malissa were expecting their second child – who they considered naming Elizabeth, after the Queen, if it was a girl - in October 2016. The couple, who returned to the same chapel where they were married to have their three-year-old son Aiden christened – the historic Queen's Chapel of the Savoy, just off London's Strand – shared their happy news in an exclusive interview with HELLO! Magazine.
"It was the first time we had been back to the chapel since our wedding, when Malisssa was pregnant with Ayden. Now she is carrying our second child, so there was something extra special about it all," says the 37-year-old Grenadian-born British army sergeant, who was awarded the VC in 2005 for bravery on the battlefield in Iraq. He is the first living recipient the military's highest honour in almost four decades.
The couple are expecting their second child
"Ayden had been telling us for quite some time that he wanted a brother or sister – in fact, he had started to say that he was going to go and buy one in the supermarket," Johnson said of his chatterbox firstborn, who arrived five months after his parents’ wedding. That took place on 18 March 2013, the eighth anniversary of Johnson being awarded his VC, the first living recipient of the military’s highest honour in almost four decades, having earned it in 2005 for bravery on the battlefield in Iraq.
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"Ayden has grown up so fast – he’s a little man now. I miss that baby stage, because then he only wanted me," says his proud dad. "He would sleep on me and curl up against my back. Now, if I try to cuddle him, often he’ll push me away because he’s too busy, or send me to the naughty step because I’ve annoyed him. So it will be nice to have a baby in our home again." For Mallissa, who, also hails from Grenada, christening their son had always been important, but it became more of a priority once she discovered she was expecting again. "It had been on my mind for a long time that we hadn’t had Ayden’s life blessed. I was christened and confirmed and to me tradition is important," said the softly spoken mum-to-be.
Johnson also told how he still suffers pain and terrifying flashbacks more than a decade on from the attacks that left him with devastating injuries, including losing part of his brain. "There are trigger points, such as now, coming up to Remembrance Sunday, that is always a difficult time," said Johnson. "Bonfire night is terrible, with fireworks going off. I lost my sense of smell when I was injured, but often I find myself gripped by this sensation that I'm being choked by smoke. I can actually feel it on my chest."
Johnson Beharry shared his happy news in October 2016
Ayden’s birth brought him respite from the terrors that haunt him. "For the first three months after he arrived, that was the most peaceful time of my life," he recalled. So, how would he feel if his boy wanted to follow him into the military? "I don’t ever want him to feel he should follow in my footsteps, but if he said to me, 'Dad, this is what I want to do,’ and he truly meant it, then I would tell him, ‘Son, go and be the soldier and leader I couldn’t be.'" The very idea brought tears to Mallissa’s eyes.
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Likewise, the charity Johnson has established, the JBVC Foundation, which helps troubled youngsters to leave street gangs and find sustainable careers, is, he says, his passion and not something he would ever force on his son. "If Ayden wants to be involved when he is older, that is great, but I want him to forge his own path."
The couple did not know if the baby they are expecting, due in May, is a boy or a girl. "With Ayden we found out, but this time I think we might keep it as a surprise," says Mallissa, though her intuition tells her it’s a daughter. "It feels very different to my last pregnancy," she explains. "I have a lot more cravings and I feel nauseous, which I didn’t have with Ayden. And I’ve always believed in my heart that I would have a boy first and then a girl."