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Sunday, 21 October 2012

1.1 - TWO MUMS: With Two Sons in Afghanistan


5/5/2010: to Kate

Hi Kate,

Thank you SO MUCH for the photos [of Dale and Alex].  Can you believe the amount of kit they have to wear! It's a wonder they can walk, let alone go on patrol with all that stuff. I agree entirely with you about that 'I'm proud of my boy' thing. I'm furious with Alex too. And it's nice to be able to share that (generally unspoken) feeling. Having said that, I am impressed by the qualities Alex, and Dale too no doubt, has had to develop in order to make the grade as a Marine. I think that the training must have nurtured all sorts of qualities they probably didn't know they possessed: determination; will power; courage etc.

Re: Dale, there are good sides and bad to his reaction to this experience, aren't there? On the plus side, as I said before, at least you know he won't be going into the Marines full-time. Also you and Dale, probably, are discovering aspects about him you may not have known before. On the minus side, it's a shame he's evidently in a place he's decided he'd rather not be in. Although I've only met him a couple of times, briefly, he seems to me a rather reflective, sensitive type who's probably not best suited to the Marine existence, at least not long-term.

And good on him, I say!

As for Alex, I don't know.  He does talk about R & R quite a bit now, but …

Did I tell you that Alex's sister Claire has been accepted for a Masters in 'Terrorism and Security’? Not what I'd anticipated.

All best

Anna 



6/5/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna,

I didn't see the line of text with the photographs that Dale sent, or more accurately I didn't read it, but it said,

‘Today we learnt about how to put a cannula in, so we have spent the morning practising on each other just in case heat exhaustion knocks one of us out and we you we need to put fluids in.’

They obviously trust each other entirely, and it is a great to comfort to know that they have each other.  I haven't met Alex but I have heard a little about him from Dale.  There is talk of a trip to our house, so we might get to meet him sometime.

You must be delighted about Claire.  I didn't even know you could gain a Masters in 'Terrorism and Security’, but it sounds very interesting and worthwhile, and if it has anything to do with tackling terrorism through better understanding, it wins my vote.

Our younger son, Nathan, graduates this year, Script Writing. We're not sure what he is going to do for a job, but he is relaxed and happy and plans to share a house with five girls this year.  When I said the house would probably be filthy, he laughed and said, ‘I know, it's great!’

Your observations about Dale are correct, he is quiet and reflective, but he is also something of an unknown entity.  I won't go in to details, as Dale doesn't, but he has, on more than one occasion, astonished us with his determination and courage.  We are very proud of him and everything he has achieved, and I did tell him when he said he was thinking of going to Afghanistan with the Marines.  He was such a skinny chap I honestly did not think he would get through the training and that we would have anything to worry about.  He had nothing to prove to anyone, he really didn't.

I just want our chaps and everyone else's home safe, sooner rather than later.  I wonder what the elections will bring?

Kind regards

Kate



6/5/2010: to Kate

Hi Kate,

A cannula? Never come across that word before, and it's not in the dictionary, but I assume it means a tube of some sort. Rather them than me! But, as you say, it's good to know they are looking out for each other.
  
Looking at your photos, I was relieved and a little surprised to see how much Dale had filled out since I last saw him, and how well he looked. As one of my sisters-in law commented this morning: 'The boys look fab, like tough guys out of a film!'

We've ducked out of the only election party we've been invited to. If you're staying up, enjoy!

All best

Anna 



9/5/2010: to Kate

Dear Kate,

You will have heard the news that a Marine died today. I wanted to let you know that as we haven't heard anything to the contrary, I'm assuming Alex is OK.  I trust the same is true for Dale.

God speed

Anna 



10/5/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna
  
We haven't heard from Dale, but I see from the MOD website that the next of kin have been informed.  I guess I am worried that as we live in a rural area it would take longer for news to come through to us.

I'll let you know if I hear anything from Dale. 

Kindest regards

Kate 



10/5/2010: to Kate

Hallo again,

So glad Dale is okay, even if not yet in contact.  I suspect that communications are still down, and will remain so until the affected family's request for a 'period of grace' has expired.

Having said that, volcanic ash permitting, I'm going to France tomorrow for a week. Unfortunately, we don't have internet in the house so will have to rely on the internet cafe in the local town - and being French the opening hours are somewhat relaxed, to put it mildly! But, please, if you do hear anything of import, please write.  I shall pick up emails as often as I can.

All the best

Anna
 


10/5/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

Hope you manage to avoid the volcanic ash and have a lovely time in France.  I guess Dale will be in touch in the next day or so and I will email as soon as I hear anything.  We are still looking at popping over to France for a couple of days but I am so worried about not being around if anyone calls. 

Best wishes

Kate



10/5/2010: to Kate

Just a quickie to say I've just had a short email from Alex. He's fine as is Dale, I imagine. He said that the guy who died had a wife living in Taunton, so I guess they must have known him. I wonder how this first casualty has affected them all.

Thanks for your good wishes. I, too, feel a bit apprehensive about being out of the country, but there are still phones, I suppose.

All the best

Anna 



10/5/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna,

Thank you for the info.  I think the news will have knocked the wind out of their sails.  I have a number of earlier emails from Dale saying that it wasn't as bad as the press reported etc., etc.  Suspect it will be tough on all of them and they will take a few days to get back on track. 

I'm sure you will be just fine in France. Being at your own home is different from staying at a hotel or camping, which is why I am so nervous.  Ian is trying to talk me around but it's not working. 

Kind regards

Kate



27/5/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

I hope you enjoyed your time in France. Hopefully you had some good weather.

We heard from Dale last Friday, just before the communications were taken down after the incident. We have not heard anything since, but I see from the MOD site that the family of the Marine killed last night have been informed. I don't know how you are feeling, but in the past when people have said ‘my nerves are bad’, I never really understood what they meant. I think I do now.

Nathan has joined a gym and signed up for an Iron Man challenge, which I think is a race along the lines of a triathlon. He is raising money for Help for Heroes. He is the least likely candidate for any form of exercise and has spent the last three years eating and drinking, never giving any thought to his health. We are astonished, but nonetheless impressed.

Kind regards

Kate



27/5/2010: to Kate

Hallo Kate,

Good to hear from you again. 

Having been away rather a lot over the last two weeks, I'm not sure what the previous 'incident' was. Perhaps when the second Marine, the 42-year-old, was killed? And I didn't know about yesterday's death until I read your mail. Oh dear, oh dear.  It's like a horrible game of Russian roulette.

Well done Nathan! It's interesting, isn't it, how Dale and Alex's decision to go out there (particularly as they are volunteers) has had unexpected repercussions.  I'm sure that's partly/ mainly why Alex's sister, Claire, has decided to do her Terrorism and Security Masters.

I'll let you know when I hear again from Alex.  Presumably they'll be able to get in touch tomorrow or the next day. Let's hope so.

All the best

Anna 



28/5/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

We've heard from Dale and Alex is okay too.  I realise of course that neither of us would know anything about our respective sons unless we told each other.  Dale writes it was one of their mates from Wakefield, killed by an IED almost instantly.  It is horrible and I am sure that every other family must be thinking the same.  My relief is short-lived when I hear from Dale, as I know another family are grieving somewhere.

Kind regards

Kate



28/5/2010: to Kate

Thanks so much for letting me know, Kate. I still haven't heard from Alex so it's a relief to hear he's unharmed.

How did Dale sound?

All best

Anna 



28/5/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna,

It was a brief email, just reassuring me they were okay.  I will always get in touch as soon as I have news. 

I have a few things to send to Dale, but am restricting myself to one box a week now as he mentioned he looked like a welfare case! At least he has been able to share things as he tells me some of the lads get very little.  I have spent quite a few lunch times seeking out unusual treats that can withstand the pressure of the hold.

I hope you enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend. 

Best wishes

Kate  



28/5/2010: to Kate

Hi again,

I would be grateful for any news you get; I think Dale gets in touch more often than Alex.  Still haven't heard anything.

You have been good sending out more than one parcel a week! I just about manage one - although, at Alex's request, I'm now also sending out the odd parcel to one of his friends who's from Trinidad.  Apparently, parcels don't go free from there and he hasn't been getting anything.  He sent me such a sweet letter in thanks for the first one. It must be hard seeing other guys getting stuff - although, as you say, I'm sure they all share things out.

(By the way, do you know how many of them there are in C Company?)

I hope you have a good weekend, too, although it sounds as if the weather isn't going to be that great.  Typical Bank Holiday weather in fact!

All the best

Anna 



30/5/2010: to Kate

Hi Kate,

Just to let you know that Alex called today, on a satellite phone that kept blanking out, to say that he was ok. He's been sent to a FOB somewhere, which is rather worrying as I think these places are more exposed (in every sense) than Jackson. But he should only be there a week and then goes back to base.  (Having said that, he then will probably go to another FOB for a week - or 2/3 - to cover for people going off on R & R.) I gather Dale is still at Jackson.

I'm going to stick my neck out now and presume you know that the three Nottingham boys will now be coming back home (dv) at the end of July, with no R & R in between? Apparently it was only confirmed a day or so ago, so I trust/ hope I'm not being indiscreet. What a relief (dv again).

I don't know about you but I've found the last week, since the death of Mark Burley, very stressful. I guess everyone left at home must feel the same. Alex told me that he'd had lunch with Mark the day he died; can't imagine what he must be feeling. These boys are too young to be dealing with situations such as this. Tough even for the toughest.

Anyway, enough of that.  Hope you are having a good Bank Holiday, despite the weather. I went to visit a friend in Charlbury, near Oxford and went walking - again.

I'm going to put my feet up now!

All the best

Anna 



1/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

Thank you for your emails.  I haven't heard from Dale at all, so it's good that Alex has been in touch.  Dale has been out of Jackson to other FOBs before. 

Dale had also mentioned coming home earlier, but last time we spoke it wasn't confirmed, so like you I am relieved.  I know they have been under pressure to stay and Dale has said they are expecting to get some 'stick' from the other lads for leaving early.  Ian and I have both emailed him and said that he should think about uni and concentrate on that.  We have tried everything other than tell him to get out of there as soon as he can.  Thank goodness that the three of them are coming home at the same time.   

Dale has said that he knows the sound a bullet makes when it takes a man's life.  They are so young to be dealing with this and I am afraid for the future.  These are stressful times and as you say I can't imagine what they are feeling.  Ian is the only one who is functioning in a normal fashion, or gives the appearance of doing so.  Nathan has taken to calling and texting and is very worried.  He has a kidney infection and is not well, so I guess he is sat at home thinking about things.  Anyhow, we keep going, as we must.

The Bank Holiday was good and we made the most of the good weather we had.  We are just planning our trip to the UK for Nathan's graduation in July so that is something to look forward to.
  
Kind regards

Kate



1/6/2010: to Kate

Hallo again,

How nice to have something to celebrate before the end of July. I hope you all manage to enjoy it as much as we did Claire's graduation.

I, too, sent Alex a 'Think of your long-term future' email. I was really scared that he would decide to stay on. However, he seems resigned to coming home with the other two now.  Do you know if they will have a debrief, or whatever it's called, when they get back? And if so, for how long, and where? They should have something don't you think?

All the best

Anna 



1/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

I know what you mean about the 'long term future' email. I did exactly the same when Dale was thinking things over a few weeks ago and feeling the pressure to stay on.  I know I have mentioned that Dale has realised that he does not want to do this for a career and I am relieved to say the least.  I understand that whenever they are finally able to leave they still have to stop over two days in Cyprus on what Dale called 'decompression' before they are able to return to the UK. 
  
I do feel really anxious the whole time and am struggling to sleep; this morning I was up at 4.00 a.m.  Our ginger cat was thrilled to bits when a warm lap became available. 

I still haven't heard from Dale but hopefully will do so in the next day or two.  I'll let you know what he has to say when I do.  I am counting the days now.

Best wishes.

Kate



5/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

I've not heard from Dale so assume all is ok.  Friday was scorching and I took a flexi day off.  Today was better as it was cooler.  I've just had a quiet couple of days and have been doing far too much thinking.  I've resisted emailing Dale my true thoughts as we have fallen out on email before - they do calm down though, you are right!  I think I have prepared my welcome home speech now and boy is he going to get it.  I am really so cross with him. Will be in touch when I hear from Dale.

Kind regards

Kate



9/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna,

Just a note to let you know that I had a brief email from Dale yesterday. No real news, just thanking me for his parcels and asking me to keep writing to him as he really enjoys the letters. He said he had tried to call but had been unable to get through but that he would try again later this week.

I had an email from a close friend of mine who said that Dale had replied to a letter she sent him, and that she was horrified by what he had written in his letter back to her. Her two daughters (who Dale and Nathan grew up with) were both in tears and immediately put pen to paper to reassure him and tell him how much they loved and missed him. I didn't dare ask as to the content of his letter, but I am realising that these young men are going to have some serious issues to deal with when they get back. I am totally unprepared for this and am still just worrying about him actually staying safe. I cannot think that two days in Cyprus undergoing 'decompression' will solve anything though. Have you heard anything from Alex?

Kind regards

Kate



9/6/2010: to Kate

Hi Kate,

My husband had quite a long call from Alex on Monday, I think it was.  Apparently he was in quite good spirits in his usual laconic way. Like Dale, he hasn't directly said anything about what he's seen or is feeling, although he did email my GP sister-in-law about the first aid he gave to a badly injured Afghan boy.  Did I tell you about that? Here’s a copy of his email to her:

Hi! Just a quick email to let you know I got some medical experience last night. I’m a team medic out here and three local nationals got hit by a mortar the Taleban fired. I had to take care of a 4-year-old boy with a big hole in his neck, a shrapnel wound to his chest, with a collapsed lung, and his hand was half off.

Dale and I taped gauze over the wound in his neck, put an asherman chest seal over the puncture wound in his chest, and a field dressing on to hold his hand and wrist together.

The Medical Officer told us today that the chest seal stopped the collapsed lung from getting any worse and that he will be fine. He is in the hospital in Bastion now.

Hope you’re all well!

Alex xxx

When I asked why he hadn't said anything to me, he said he didn't think I'd want to hear about things like that.  Probably the same with Dale; doesn't want to upset you.

I agree with you about the 'decompression' period. However, in the booklet I picked up at one Family Day it gives a number of tips on what to expect from returning lads, and strategies for handling the difficult emotions they may be experiencing.  I haven't read it in full yet as I don't want to tempt fate, as it were (I find myself becoming increasingly superstitious as time goes on.), but if you haven't a copy, I could photocopy the relevant pages and send them to you, if you'd like. Maybe it would be a good idea nearer the time of Dale's return to read your friend's letter so that you can prepare yourself a bit.

Is Dale at Jackson this week? Alex's there for this week, on sentry duty, which must be better than out in PB Mahoob.

All the best,

Anna  



To be continued...

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