Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Colour Sergeant Mike Saunders, 2 MERCIAN, blogs from Helmand - Part 15
Greetings friends and readers at the Marwood, Worcester!
As we are now approaching the middle of our tour here I have been in a reflective mood this week. In situations as I find myself in now I believe it is important to take stock of what is being achieved and at what cost.
Over the last few weeks we are all too aware of the high cost of operations in this the most dangerous of provinces. We have collectively lost friends and many more have been injured, some very seriously.
While reading a paper the other day I was forced to pause at a picture of villagers in Wooten Bassett turning out to pay their respects yet again for another fallen soldier. Many would say that the community spirit in these darker times is diminished; however I believe such public demonstrations of solidarity show that we have not gone completely in to isolation and can still recognise great sacrifice.
Many of those assembled were dressed in blazers showing a vast array of Regimental ties, berets and an impressive haul of medals. It is interesting to me that many of these men had most likely seen conflict themselves and in doing so a line of shared experience was continued and acknowledged.
The photo reminded me that while the nature and methods of conflict have changed almost immeasurably, the British soldier had changed very little. Those men stood proud and with a respect that is rare in these turbulent times. You could see in many faces the recollection of personal triumphs, failures and great loss. All of this started me thinking on what made the British soldier and also what marked him out from everyone else around him or indeed her.
Having served over 16 years in the Army to date I have met almost every type of man and almost every type of soldier, many of whom are the finest of people and a few who were unfortunately cruel and without saving grace. The soldier is normally the person to be found in the corner of your local with his back to the wall, laughing and telling stories about some outrageous stunt or someone who was “the craziest person he’s ever met” with examples!
In writing this blog and my book I have remembered many personal events long lost to the memory and like a map they point the way my life has gone hand in hand with my service, the two being inextricably linked. Those older gentlemen on parade must have similar memories that occasionally at reunions are dusted of with the medals and are given a new shine in the telling.
It is difficult to explain to those who have little experience of soldiers why we are as we are and at times I am forced to wonder what it will be like when I must let all this go and embrace the fact that I will be an ex soldier. To sum up the events that make up a life in the Army is to tell story that is almost impossible to sum up in words. I do not consider myself extraordinary in any way and in many ways my service could be classed as routine, however such things I have seen that most could say they had done.
As I am constantly around soldiers it is easy to forget what a collection of people we are, most of whom would never normal meet under normal circumstances. And are those circumstances so different from the soldier fifty years or even 100 years ago? I am sure that those soldiers right back to the days of the foundation of the Worcestershire Regiment still moaned the same way that we do, yet in the same breath fought equally ferociously.
The core of it all is that soldiering is quite unlike any other profession as Philip Massinger said:
“To dare boldly,
In a fair cause, and for their country’s safety;
To run upon the cannon’s mouth undaunted;
To obey their leaders, and shun mutinies;
To bear with patience the winter’s cold
And summer’s scorching heat, and not to faint
When plenty of provision fails, with hunger,
Are the essential parts that make up a soldier.”
On the news and in the papers it must be easy to see the Army and its soldiers as grim faced, serious individuals. At times this is very true but there is also great humour and perhaps a large measure of humanity that comes with seeing the very best and the very worst that man will do to one another. Ultimately we are a reflection of the society that we were recruited from and we remain proud to serve that society even in these hard times.
We will continue here and we will endure the attacks from the enemy as we do what we have done before many times. Others will follow us in this place and will make memories of their own, but for now as I sit here I am thinking of home that for us, for now, will remain one more day away.
“STAND FIRM STRIKE HARD”