Total Pageviews

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

1.4 - TWO MUMS: With Two Sons in Afghanistan


16/7/2010: to Kate

Hallo again Kate,

Back in Blighty, now, and back on line.

Thanks for news of what's been going on in the last week - but could you please fill in the details as to what you were told - particularly regarding the 'pressing forward' you mention, and Dale's and Alex's journeys home (dv).


I'm also quite curious to know what support our two families should have been getting all this while! (Goodness knows how we would have coped if we hadn't got together - and that's down to you, Kate, so a big Thank You from me to you!)

Was Dave also in C Company? I've seen no news about him on any of the usual websites and nothing about him from Alex.

And, sadly, I haven't had any more phone calls from Alex, although I did spend almost all of my time in France outside where it's virtually impossible to hear the phone.  And even if you do hear it, there's never enough time to reach it before it switches to answerphone mode.

All the very best

Anna 



16/7/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

Firstly I understand that Dale, Alex and Mikey will have a week with 40 Commando (not sure exactly where) and then another week at Chilwell, so two weeks in total until they are able to come home from the first day they are out of Bastion. 

Dave Hart was in C Company, as was Matt Harrison.  I understand that Dale (and assume that Alex) knew both of them well.  Dale said he would tell me later what had happened, but I knew from the tone of his voice that he was very shaken up and that he had just needed to call home.  Dale had mentioned that the helicopters were not getting through, but that they all thought Dave would make it.  I am just hoping that he did not mean he could not be saved due to a delay in picking him up.

When I spoke to the CO he was reassuring but not forthcoming about operations.  I expressed my shock at the number of casualties and asked why they were still pressing forward and not waiting until the Americans could back them up.  He was pretty evasive and didn't really want to discuss tactics.

I'm afraid I really did give him a piece of my mind and I let him know that I felt the Marines had encouraged Dale and Alex to take a year from university when it was clearly not in their best interests to do so.  I told that I had not been able to attend Families Day, but the support had been non-existent and I certainly didn't feel like I had been kept up to speed.  He tried to turn it around and said that Dale should have kept me more up to date that he had done.  I think I really lost it at that point and said if anything happened to our boys I would not be responsible for my actions.

I just know that Dale was distressed and that he again said he wished that Nathan had said a proper goodbye.  I told him to hang in there and that I was like a spirit and would never leave him.  It was a really rough day and I spent most of it in tears convinced that I would never see him again. 

John also emailed this morning to say that he had heard from Dale and that 'despite the situation' he was on good form.  I'm not sure what the 'situation' is but I did have a bad feeling on Wednesday especially when Dale's next call was to Nathan.

I've not heard anything else since and I guess no news, etc. still applies. 

On a more positive note, yesterday morning Mikey's father mentioned that they could be out of 'theatre' as early as 25 July, so that may mean only another nine days of active service.

I hope you have a good weekend. 

Will keep in touch if I hear anything.

Kind regards

Kate



17/7/2010: to Kate

Hello Kate,

Won't keep you long as I expect you're packing for your graduation trip.  I do hope you are able to enjoy it and wholeheartedly celebrate Nathan's success. Clever lad!

Just thought I'd let you know that I plan to phone Welfare on Monday and ask for the boys' itinerary re coming home. I think we should be told, and your conversation with the CO has made me feel (much) less reticent about enquiring. I think you were quite right to say what you did.

I haven't heard from Alex. But I suppose the latest announcement - presumably about Dave - means that communications are down again.

I'm so sorry you have been so upset; although it's wonderful to hear from our sons, it's often also hard to bear, isn't it?

All the best
  
Anna 



17/7/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna



Thanks for emailing.  What a good idea to call Welfare.  I think today's news is another casualty and it certainly sounds like the Marines are still heavily involved. 

I'll pick my emails up whilst we are away and Ian will have his blackberry. I know that my anxiety has increased and I suspect it will continue to do so until they are back in the UK. 

I hope you are okay and keeping busy.  We've been for a walk today and being outside helps.

Will be in touch if I hear from Dale.

Kind regards

Kate



18/7/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

Just had an email from Dale.  Another friend down - Jonny Crookes.  Dale said Alex is back from Pylae and Alex is glad that he is back. They have had a hard night - more news later apparently. Just setting off now.

Take care,

Kate



18/7/2010: to Kate

Hello Kate,

Finally had a call from Alex. As Dale said, he's now back in Jackson and will (presumably) stay there until the boys' departure. The good news is that - if things don't change! - they should be flying out of Jackson, back to Bastion, next Sunday. As far as he knows, a week later they will then fly to the UK, then spend a couple of days at Norton Manor. After that they will have a long weekend somewhere, followed by another couple of days at the camp, followed by a few days at Chilwell (near Nottingham). He estimates he/ they will be allowed to leave there around the 10th August. I will check all this tomorrow with Welfare.

I'm so glad he's left Pylae. I don't know if you know this but Matt was apparently at Pylae with Alex, and was shot just as he was returning to the base. Alex said it was partly as a result of this that he and the others were taken back to Jackson - plus, of course, that they'd been there longer than they should have been. Surprise, surprise.

He says it's pretty insufferable at Jackson as the place is overrun with US civilians, who do nothing except eat the Marines' food and using the communal phones. Roll on next Sunday, I say!

Have a lovely time at the graduation ceremony.

All best

Anna 



18/7/2010: to Kate

You may want to check out the MOD website re 'Crooksey', where both Dale and Alex have recorded their feelings re his passing.

All the best

Anna 



19/7/2010: to Kate

Hi Kate

I do hope you managed to enjoy Nathan’s Big Day. I was so pleased and proud when we went to Claire’s graduation – quite a milestone – and definitely a day to remember.

As I mentioned, I phoned Welfare this morning and had quite a long chat with one of the two senior officers there. He said the following: that the boys could spend up to a week at Bastion before flying back to the UK (rather than Cyprus, he thinks). Most of that time will be taken up with admin. Once they get to the UK they will spend a couple of days or so at Norton camp, and then to up to Chilwell for another 4 to 5 days. Here there will be more admin (!) and TRiP, which is I gather a kind of ‘group hug’ as he put it, to enable returning Marines to talk (or not talk if they so wish) about their experiences. The sessions are moderated by a professional, whose sole job it is to assess, and organise treatment if necessary, lads who are having difficulty coming to terms with their tour. Even if no problems emerge until much later, a Marine who wants to talk to someone can come back at any time, I believe, for help and counselling.  I tried to get him to specify how many days in total all this would be likely to take but the closest he got was to say between 5 and 8 days – although I got the impression that 8 would be tops max.

I then asked if there was any material for relatives to help them know what to expect when their lad returns, and how best to help ease him back into normal life. There is – but it won’t be ready until September! However he did say he had three very useful pamphlets, which give guidance to relatives of Reservists in particular, and that he would send them to me. I said I though you would like a set, too, and so he’s going to phone you sometime after Tuesday to check whether that is indeed the case. So don’t be alarmed to get a call from Welfare!

I’m sorry Dale was so upset on the phone. Maybe it was because he had been with Crooksey in Sick Bay, rather than that he feared for himself. Did he tell you where he was being sent – and was it just him going, or Alex, too?

Look after yourself

Anna



19/7/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

So glad Alex is out of Pylae.  Dale rang yesterday and he was upset.  Said they were going off for a few days and I know his call was in case he doesn't come back.  He spoke to his girlfriend too and she has emailed to say how scared she is.  I am a mess, feel like he was saying goodbye.  Just have to get through today for Nathan.  Might not get back on-line now until Tuesday lunchtime. Hurry up this week.  I did see their comments on MOD - Dale said he was with him in Sick Bay - don't know any more other than he said that he was a medic, something else I didn't know. Have to go now - catch up soon.

Kind regards

Kate



19/7/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

Thanks for the update.  Dale didn't say where he was going or if Alex would be with him.  He was just really down and I think he was really nervous of going to do whatever it was. 

We did enjoy the day with Nathan.  He was lovely.  We had a super dinner at the hotel but I am glad it was a one-off as I had forgotten how much he can eat!  We were well looked after by all his friends and met a few of them today.  He has managed to tag on to another dinner this evening!

It sounds like the lads will need a lot of support.  I think we can cope with that after these last few weeks though.  I have a good friend who is a psychologist and have had a few chats with her.  She thinks they will have been severely traumatised and has said 'get ready' for a roller coaster few months. Just need these next few days over with.  Have developed a twitch, which I cannot control - ha ha!

Thanks for your support these last few weeks.

Kind regards

Kate



22/7/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

Just a quick note to say we haven't heard from Dale.

A lady I work with, who has a friend with a son in the 21st Engineers, has told me that his troop could not get out of the tower where they are based, due to being surrounded by insurgents and that he had not made his R & R flight as planned. They were waiting for assistance to 'get them out' but were apparently safe if they stayed put. She said he was pretty tense when he spoke to his mum and that she was very worried about him.

I see again that two soldiers have been killed whilst trying to save another chap. How terribly sad. I couldn't help wondering if Dale was going to form part of a 'rescue' mission. I guess we will find out.

Please let me know if you hear from Alex.

Kind regards

Kate



22/7/2010: to Kate

Hi Kate, 

Sadly, I haven't heard anything either; will, of course, let you know when I do (dv). Let's hope neither Dale nor Alex is involved in that rescue mission. Sounds terrifying.

Have you had a call from the Welfare office yet? I have just received the two pamphlets about 'Coming Home' I mentioned which, at first glance, seem to offer some useful insights.   

All the best

Anna 



22/7/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

I haven't heard anything from Welfare but might give them a ring.  I just want this week to be over and in the meantime would just like to hear that all is well with the chaps.
  
I'll let you know if I hear anything.

Kind regards

Kate



23/7/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna
  
I hadn't realised Alex had been at Pylae for a month, or that conditions were quite so harsh.  They must have been surviving on ration packs then?  I will be very interested to see the photographs the lads have taken after their experiences.

I was up in the night just as I was hoping Dale might be in touch.  I missed him on Facebook by 12 minutes.  One comment intended for all I think - said he was back in, showering and sleeping in a non flea-infested bed space.  That was it, so a relief.  Have you heard from Alex?

Kind regards

Kate



23/7/2010: to Kate

Hi again,
  
No, I still haven't heard anything, so it's a relief to hear that Dale - and hopefully Alex - is back at Jackson. I assume he didn't say anything about his/ their return to Bastion?

All best,

Anna 



23/7/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

Nothing more I am sorry to say.  I logged in at lunchtime on an external pc and still nothing.  I suppose they will be sleeping and resting.  I am half wondering if that will be it now, and the chaps will be on their way to Bastion.  I hope so. 

I'll be in touch as soon as I hear anything.

Kind regards

Kate



23/7/2010: to Kate

Hi Kate,

I'm happy to say Alex just called from Jackson. He and everyone else are fine, and relieved to be back in camp after four nights out in the desert. Apparently virtually everyone was there on a 'mission' (incomplete) of some sort (which he couldn't talk about), which was both successful and injury-free. They got back at one in the morning and had today off, which meant that they could all sleep after virtually no rest for five days. (Back in the desert, when they did sleep it was in the sand next to the vehicles, providing local mosquitoes with the best feast they'd enjoyed in years.)

As for what happens next, he said he was badgering people about flights to Bastion. (So when you talk to Dale, maybe you could check he's doing the same?) Needless to say, their departure doesn't sound very organised. However, notionally at least, they are booked onto to a flight from Bastion to England on the 30th. Hurrah! He also said he thought/ hoped they wouldn't get sent on the second part of the mission as there wouldn't be time for them to go there and get back in time.  Let's hope he's right. Again theoretically, he said he shouldn't be going on any more patrols but ....

As far as Pylae is concerned, yes Alex was there for almost a month.  And it was very basic. For example, the guys had to use bags instead of lavatories, which they then took turns to burn at the end of each day.  Mmmm.  No wonder there are no female Marines.

Hope you get a call from Dale soon, if you haven't already done so.  I'd love to know his take on it all.

All the very best

Anna 



23/7/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

I think we were talking to our respective sons at the same time.  Dale sounded hugely relieved that the 'mission' had gone okay and that there were no casualties.  He said he was very tired and that it was good to have some rest.  He did say that he thought they might be out of the base on Monday, but was not certain and anything could happen between now and then.

That was about the total conversation other than he did mention that it would be hard to leave the other lads out there and that he would be worrying about them the whole time.  I asked him to get all their details and told him we would keep in touch and keep sending parcels, etc. I think Dale will be slow to 'open up' and the advice his godmother has given me is not to probe and to let him talk in his own time.  I guess they will all deal with things in different ways, but I am certain it is a good sign that Alex shares so much with you now. 

I do hope this is it and that they won't have to go back out on patrol.

Kind regards

Kate



24/7/2010: to Kate

Hi Kate,

Yes, Alex has also said that he'll have mixed emotions about coming home - mainly because he'll be worrying about the other guys still out there.  For him, I think the real celebration will only begin when they're all back in the UK. Which makes it difficult to know what to do about Alex's (and Dale's) homecoming (dv) A good friend of his asked if we would be having some kind of party - which is, I guess, what many people will be expecting; on the other hand, I don't know if this would be appropriate, or welcome as far as Alex is concerned.  Are you having any kind of celebration for Dale?


All best

Anna 



25/7/2010: from Kate

Hi Anna

I'm not sure about organising a celebration, but it had crossed my mind, and I think it would be appreciated.  We have always had parties at home for just about any reason and the chaps have loved them.  I would like to do something special to mark their return though.  What are you thinking of?

I've not heard anything since our last call from Dale and am just counting the days.  I am hoping that when Dale is back I will start to feel 'normal' again.

Kind regards

Kate



25/7/2010: to Kate

Hallo Kate,

My husband and I have just had a long 'Messenger' chat with Alex.  Both he and Dale are still in Jackson and hoping to fly to Bastion on Tuesday. All the rest of their troop have been sent back to the unfinished 'Op' , so they are not having to do any more patrols - thank goodness! He said he and Dale were hiding to avoid being given any horrible jobs to do in the meantime! Theoretically they should still be both flying out on the 30th, but there's no guarantee.

I asked Alex if he'd like to have a celebration of some sort and he said no, at least not now.  I think he just wants to chill out at home for a while - and eat some fresh food! 

Nearly there ... oh what a relief!


All the best

Anna 


To be continued...

No comments:

Post a Comment