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Monday, 29 October 2012

1.2 - TWO MUMS: With Two Sons in Afghanistan


9/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

You didn't mention it.  How awful for him to be in that situation. It must have been very distressing for him.  Dale has not mentioned anything like that, but I think you are right, he would not want to upset us. I have some paperwork from Family Day and I will have a look through it and see if I have the same information.  Unfortunately I couldn't go so I was relying on Dale. 

I don't know where Dale is this week, but I am hoping he will call and give us an update.

Kind regards

Kate
  

14/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

We had a call from Dale on Saturday morning. He said it was 50 degrees now and that they were struggling with the heat. He said they didn't get a day off, but that he was counting the days until the end of July.

He implied that they were on the ground searching for the Taleban responsible for the attack on the US helicopter last week, which was on a mission to rescue British troops when it was shot down. He said they had received some new weaponry and that Alex had been given a very large piece of equipment, which he was pleased about. I hope that doesn't sound too alarming. I definitely detected some humour in the situation and Dale said Alex was doing just fine.

Dale also mentioned that amount of parcels that people had sent him and that it was great that he could share it out. He said he had not had time to write to people to thank them but would I put a note on his Facebook wall just thanking people. I did that, but I'm not exactly sure if everyone can read it.

The weather is picking up again and we are set for sunshine all week, which is great and certainly cheers me up.

I'm holding my breath and counting the days. Ian and I hope that we do get to meet you sometime.

Kind regards

Kate



14/6/2010: to Kate

Good to hear from you, Kate,

I heard from Alex late on Friday afternoon, but thought I wouldn't say anything until you'd heard from Dale. Alex mentioned the helicopter incident, too. Apparently, he was one of the guys who had to search the wreckage and then help carry the bodies back to the patrol base. His gloves got ruined in the process (let's not think about that too deeply) and he asked me to send him out another pair. I asked him he'd felt about the whole incident, and there was a pause. Then he said 'Anger, mainly'. Hmmm.

I don't suppose you know any more details about this v. large piece of equipment, do you?

I think Alex's getting some parcels from the extended family as well as from us, and hasn't had time/ energy to thank people for them. But I think the donors understand; in these circumstances it has to be accepted that politeness takes second place to the conservation of energy, focus etc.

Of course, we too are counting the days (49 today by my reckoning) and once the boys [can I say that still?!] are safely back  I hope we can meet up sometime soon afterwards. We will have shared quite a lot by then.

Enjoy your sun-filled week; it's raining here! Hopefully, it will stop for Wimbledon next week.  A friend of mine has just invited me to join her on Centre Court for the first day.

(Not playing, you understand!)

All the best

Anna 



15/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

I'm pleased you spoke to Alex and that he is okay.  It must have been very difficult for him dealing with the after-effects of the helicopter crash.  I don't know if Dale was there as he didn't say much, as usual. 

Now on to the equipment.  Apparently the Marines have been assigned some new hand-held weapons.  They lads were looking at them and Alex (impressed by the size) asked for one.  Dale said they gave one to him.  I asked Dale if he had one and he said no he hadn't, but that Alex was more experienced than him.  I think he was a bit disappointed.

I hope it brightens up for Wimbledon and that you enjoy the first day.  I've never been but I do enjoy watching it on TV from time to time.

I'll keep in touch.  Please don't worry about letting me know if you have heard from Alex, in case I haven't heard from Dale.  I'm just as relieved to hear Alex is okay.

Kind regards

Kate



22/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

Just a note to let you know that Dale was on Facebook yesterday. He had left a message on his girlfriend’s wall saying he would tell her about it later, but that he was deaf and his ears were still ringing. We haven't heard from him but from the message I think we can assume that both he and Alex are okay.

Have you heard from Alex?

Kind regards

Kate



22/6/2010: to Kate

Hi Kate,

Funnily enough I was just about to write to you, then heard that another Marine has been killed so thought I'd wait. Especially relieved, therefore, to get your mail. I haven't spoken to Alex for what seems like ages.  He tried calling us about 5 days ago - at six in the morning so you can imagine how our hearts were racing to hear the phone ringing! But we couldn't hear each other (as we discovered later).  Apart from that, he had a Facebook chat with my husband and he sent us the attached photo.  (Apologies for the size all his pics seem to be.) I think he's being sent to another PB called Pylae today, where he said he would be for the rest of his tour.

Do you know where Dale is and why his ears are ringing?

All the best

Anna 



22/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

The photo isn't attached :( Could you try again please?

I haven't heard from Dale for over a week now, so I was relieved to see he was on Facebook, even if it was just one comment.  I can only assume that he has been deafened by some noise (possibly an explosion), but I really don't know. 

This is really a bad time for all families and only when you are in this situation do you actually realise the effect it has on your life.  I'm not doing too good this week; my anxiety levels have seriously escalated.  I have the permanent jitters and shakes.  I had a friend over at the weekend and she didn't know what to say to me other than ‘try not to worry. But it is much easier said than done.  Ian is away at the weekend and I am dreading being in the house on my own.  I don't really know anyone that well here and I have started thinking what if something happens and what do I do.  Silly I know.

Let's keep in touch.  I should mention, that you would be one of the first people we would let know if Dale was injured, it would only be fair now; to find out from the news would be terrible for either of us.

Kind regards

Kate



 22/6/2010: to Kate

Hi Kate,

Hope I've managed to attach photo properly this time.

You're absolutely right about people not understanding what this is like; how could they? It's a bit like trying to explain to single female friends what it's like to have a baby. They've heard a lot about the experience, they emote, but they DON'T understand. Maybe it's a bit easier for families whose sons have chosen to be Marines as a career. At least they have an extended 'family' who relate to each other through their experience of previous tours. More difficult for us possibly.

What I've come to depend on is the maths. Seriously! If you think that there are four Companies of Marines out there, each about 140 strong, that means that there are about 560 guys out in Helmand. So far 7 (is it now?) have died. that means the odds have shortened to 1 in 80 (i.e. still only a 1.25%) chance of Dale or Alex getting hit. If you then say to yourself there are in fact 8000 Brits out there, the odds of one of our two getting hurt are tiny. So when I get panicky, that's what I try to think of. It helps a bit.

If you feel wobbly at the weekend, feel free to phone or email. I don't think we're doing much, so should be around.  

And, of course, if anything happened to Alex (g4b) I'd let you know soonest.

Five and a half weeks to go.

All best

Anna 



23/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

Great photo, and thank you for sending it.  Alex is a very good-looking young man.  He seems to be in some sort of armoured vehicle, which is probably a good place to be. 

Thank you for your kind offer of a telephone call, I'm sure I will be fine.  The forecast is good so I'll just keep busy outdoors, take the neighbours to the airport and then a spot of cycling or a cliff path walk I think.  

Still not heard from Dale, but I'm sure he will be in touch when he can.

Kind regards

Kate 



23/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

I know you will have seen the news by now. Another Marine from C Company named and only just announced, another man down today. I still have not heard from Dale, but assume as next of kin have been informed that he is okay. We are thinking of Alex at this time also.

Kind regards

Kate



23/6/2010: to Kate

Hello Kate,

Actually, I've been out much of the day and, to be frank, I 'm not hurrying to listen to the news at the moment.  It's so frightful. I can't understand why the top brass aren't drafting in more troops to this area as it's obviously so dangerous.

I don't suppose we'll hear from the boys for a while now - but like you, I'm thinking of both of them all the time and willing them to keep safe.

Take care yourself.

All the best

Anna 



23/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

I know what you mean.  It sounds like the Marine that has been named was in the patrol base at the time when they were attacked.

I know what you mean about the top brass.  My father is apoplectic in Yorkshire and thinks this is all wrong.  He says it is almost a repeat of the First World War and they should pull back and reinforce fast. 

I feel like feigning serious illness (although if this carries on I might not be).

I realise I am emailing you constantly, so I'm going to try stop and let you have some peace.  Please do let me know when you hear from Alex.

Kind regards

Kate



23/6/2010: to Kate

Hey, don't worry about emailing too much. You're not.

We'll keep in touch - and, likewise, please let me know when you hear from Dale.

All best

Anna 



24/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

I had a very brief email from Dale, just saying that he was okay and could not wait to get back. He said he would not be able to ring for a while as communications were to be taken down again, which I suspect can only mean bad news for someone.

Kind regards

Kate



24/6/2010: to Kate

Thanks for letting me know, Kate. I'm so glad you've had that reassurance. Do you know where Dale is?

I'm assuming he didn't say anything about Alex. (I have yet to hear anything)?

All best

Anna 



24/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

Dale didn't mention anything about what was happening or in the news.  He didn't mention Alex either but I emailed him straight back saying that you have not heard from Alex and that we email each other.  As yet he hasn't responded, but he would have known if something was wrong, I'm sure.  I think they are just very busy.  He did say a lot of the guys were going home on R&R so I guess from that they will be moving all over to cover.

He said he wanted to get home and enjoy some of the summer here.  He wants me to order a graduation present for Nathan and pay for it using his money.  That's all really.

If he emails back I will let you know straight away.

Kind regards

Kate



 24/6/2010: to Kate

Thanks, Kate, I'd appreciate it.  I've been having a rather bad couple of days.

All best

Anna 



24/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

I know what you mean about a bad couple of days.  It is getting worse isn't it?  I am really struggling and find myself in tears pretty much every day.  I have the jitters and am jumpy most of the time.  I actually think it is because I feel so out of control, and I don't know how to cope with that. 

I'm not sleeping and cannot focus my mind on much other than this terrible situation that we share.  I take some comfort in the fact that we are in contact, and that it would seem I am not alone with these horrible feelings.  I think this is how it is for most mums.  A lady on our helpdesk has a friend with a son in the 21st Engineers and I am told that she too is beside herself with worry.  

Stephen Curly was the nephew of the couple that live next door to my mother and father.  They were so very proud of him, but never once did they think he would come to any harm.

I am thinking of you too, and I know that it is hard for each of us when one hears from her son and the other doesn't.  They would not have let Dale contact me if Alex was not okay. 

I'm trying to keep busy and Ian has even signed me up for Genes Reunited so that I can research our family tree even in the middle of the night.

Take care of yourself. You will hear from Alex soon, I'm sure. 

Kate



25/6/2010: to Kate

Good morning Kate,

Just got a longish phone call from Alex  - thank goodness! And he's fine, in a PB called Pylae not far from Jackson. And he sounds as if he's positively relishing living in a former Afghan compound, and not having any showers, electricity, TV or any other mod cons! Strange boy. Without mentioning the fatalities, I asked him what morale was like, and he said it was fine, which is also something of a relief.

He also told me Dale is going to be staying at Jackson until the end of his tour (I expect you knew that), which is the best place to be I imagine. So that's good, too.

I am also struggling and finding it hard to do anything at all. Tears, shaking hands, knots in the stomach - the lot. But I agree it is helpful to share these worries with someone who truly understands. I wouldn't want to write on the RM discussion board.  Do you read it ever? It's obviously meant to be supportive, but actually I find it's just the opposite.

It must be difficult for your parents living next to someone who's lost a young man, especially if they are against the war. I felt so desperate about it all a couple of days ago, I wrote an e mail to Downing Street challenging the PM to come up with any convincing reasons for the British presence in what is obviously an American war. Wonder if I'll get a reply.

Anyway, thanks for your support. Enjoy (as much as you can) your day and your weekend.

All best

Anna



25/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

You are doing better than me then with a phone call! 

I didn't know that Dale was still in Jackson or that he would be staying there.  Dale has never really said where he is or what he is doing other than very early on in the tour.  I think that is why he doesn't ring but emails as a preference.

I haven't read or written anything on the RM discussion board and I don't think I will look now. I too have wanted to write or email and express my concerns to the powers that be, but then I think of what Dale's reaction would be if he found out.  He has still not forgiven me for contacting Welfare (when he was in hospital in Bristol with pneumonia) and asking how this could have possible happened, why didn't anyone notice the weight he had lost, the fact he was coughing and was in constant pain etc., etc.  He was so annoyed with me and said it would have looked like I was trying to get him out of the tour.

My father was in the RAF very briefly and he was devastated when Dale announced he had volunteered.  The general feeling in our family is that, fighting for one’s family or country is understandable, but Afghanistan is off limits.  We just can't go around policing the world. 

Anyway, another day, and counting.

I hope you have a good weekend. Will be thinking of you all.

Catch up soon.

Kate  



29/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

I hope your weekend wasn't too bad. I just about managed but was absolutely paralysed when the doorbell rang at 7.00 a.m. on Saturday morning. I didn't answer it, I just couldn't. When I had finally given myself a good talking to, checked I hadn't any missed calls on my mobile and that there were no men sat outside in a car, I went downstairs, to find an Amazon packet too big for the letterbox.....

Anyhow, we had a telephone call from Dale at just after 5.00 a.m. today. It was great to speak to him and hear his voice. He was okay and said that he had finally managed to put some weight on.

He said he wished he was with Alex as it was much better in the other base and that Alex was absolutely fine and enjoying being out of Jackson even without the electricity etc.! I asked him to keep me updated with regards to Alex, if he wasn't able to get in touch with you himself.

I asked him how it was going and did he think the unit had made much progress? He was rather more guarded, but rather worryingly said, ‘No, not really, they have enough equipment with a few added extra's and more than enough men.’

Dale said he was really looking forward to getting back and that he wanted to go to our house and stay there a few days just to sleep and rest. I might try to get back over if I can at that point. He also mentioned that he loved getting the letters I had written to him and could I keep sending them. I am surprised really. They are just full of chitchat, the weather, sailing stories, Rozel geese tales, and the MBT shoe debate! Still I guess it is news from home and a little bit of normality.

I'll let you know if I hear from him again or if he has any news of Alex.

Kind regards

Kate



29/6/010: to Kate

Oh dear, Kate, that doorbell ring must have been SO heart-stopping! Alex has phoned a couple of time early in the morning (once at 4 a.m. and once at 6 a.m., can you believe?) which was bad enough - but realising there's someone at the door .... Awful!

So it must have been doubly reassuring to hear Dale's voice. I'm glad to hear he's put on weight; some feat in the sort of temperatures they're enduring.  Sweet the way he likes to hear about the daily round here; still, I guess they all do.

Thank you for enquiring about Alex; I treasure even the smallest detail about how they're both getting on as, I'm sure, do you. (I wonder why Dale thinks Pylae is better than Jackson. It certainly doesn't sound as if it has any advantages.)

Obviously, I'll let you know, too, when I hear anything from Alex - and about Dale. As I said, he did ring horribly early a couple of days ago but it was literally a 'Hello - I'm fine - bye bye' call whilst he was collecting stores from Jackson. So I didn't think that would be of too much interest!

When are you off to the graduation?

All best

Anna 



29/6/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

Dale didn't elaborate on the benefits of Pylae, and like you, I am struggling to see what they would be.  Just the thought of no electricity is enough to put me off. 

We are flying to Leeds on Sunday 18 July, picking up a car and then driving up to Newcastle, returning Tuesday 20th on the red eye and straight back to work, so a very quick visit.  It will be great to see Nathan and I am really looking forward to celebrating.  Goodness knows how he will manage this year though.  

Let's keep in touch. 

Best wishes 

Kate


To be continued...

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