Sunday, 7 October 2012

Light a candle ...

It’s just a day, 7th October. But for me this date has taken on a significance all of its’ own. It is the 11th Anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan. Eleven years since NATO airstrikes first hit Kabul, and oddly it is exactly one year ago today that my youngest son came back from his tour in Afghanistan. It is a day when I can celebrate his 2011 safe return and yet mourn the date in 2001 when we saw the beginning of something dreadful. It is an odd and very peculiar feeling, happy and sad all at once, the good and the bad, the light and dark.

My baby boy came back safe in mind and body and for that I will be eternally grateful. I read back the pages of my diaries that I kept whilst he was in Afghanistan. I barely recognise the woman I was then. I was, of course a Mum of a Son who was fighting in a foreign land 3,554 miles away, for a cause that I didn’t really understand. It was a strange and scary time for me. I was doing a tour by default. It made me question everything. I re read my words and I realise that the questions I posed then are still relevant now and still, an entire year later, unresolved and unanswered.

Last year I was shocked at the cost of the war. At that point it was estimated at £258 billion but I recently read an article that put it at 1 trillion dollars, a figure that I am unable to get my head around, (and honestly I have no ideas how many zeros that is!). But it isn’t about the money, it’s about the loss of life and limbs and minds. It’s about the human cost. It’s about sons and daughters not coming home, about children being denied a parent. It’s about the heartache and the devastation and that doesn’t ever have a price tag.
I was angry last year, angry at the last government for sending them Out There and even more cross at the new government for keeping them there. But I am not a political animal. I am just a very proud mum of a serving soldier in the British Army and from where I sit it is all about the troops and their families. I care about them and care nothing for the politicians and their meaningless words. We are still Out There, we will continue to suffer losses and injuries. I want to be able to do something, even if it’s a little something to help, to show my support.

So when I went to Trafalgar Square in London today to attend the Stop the War Coalition ‘Naming the Dead’ rally it was the photos of the fallen that I saw and their names that I heard, not the political speak. British soldiers who had made the ultimate sacrifice, and the names of some of the thousands of Afghani civilians who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, being read out aloud together.  As I stood there and listened I heard some familiar names, names of those who were killed whilst Ash was on tour. They were the sons and daughter of families I had spoken to. Real people, real families; not just numbers and statistics.
Somebody’s special somebody. People to whom I can relate, because when we said our goodbyes as they went off to start their tour, we never knew if we would see them again, we never knew what a knock at the door would mean, we were helpless and all we had was hope and love...
I was momentarily distracted from the ceremony as my gaze wandered across Trafalgar Square where I saw an entire family of pearly kings and queens resplendent in their costumes. They were coming out of a church, and I smiled as I watched them, just a small smile as I remembered that the Pearly motto was “One never knows.”
And the irony did not escape me as I remembered that cold afternoon in March last year when I kissed my soldier son goodbye and realised that it was probably just as well that I didn’t know what the future held...

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