Sunday, August 9, 2009

Colour Sergeant Mike Saunders, 2 MERCIAN, blogs from Helmand - Part 18

This week I will be short with my letters as we have been struck once again by the loss of one of our Mercian brothers. As you will have seen in the news we are currently engaged with the insurgent forces on many fronts, as we seek to deprive him of his last hiding places in the wider Helmand Province.

Be in no doubt that we are in the fight of our generation, the future of this place will be decided in part by what we do now. In such times we live that young men will give all and in doing so sacrifice their precious futures.

On the news they will show impressive graphic projections and they will discuss the merits of one vehicle against another until you the supporters of the Regiment are confused or disillusioned. Allow me if I may to make things very simple, the fight we are in is to dominate key ground, this ground has been the home of insurgents, bandits and drug lords for some time and if we are to proceed with our mission of bringing peace we must remove these men and replace them with stability and law.

Key terrain like this can only be taken by soldiers making the hard yards on the
ground. For these men their world is what they can see in the front of them as they fight metre for metre with a ruthless cunning and determined enemy. With a sweep of his or her arm the news presenter will allude to the ground being covered and taken, the reality of which is that every metre will be paid for with blood sweat and brute force.

This is nothing new and Infantry soldiers have done the same thing since records began, that is why they exist and are so very much in demand here, where ground that is not held by force will be occupied and subjected to the lawlessness of insurgents and violent men.

At the beginning of the tour in an interview I was asked what I thought of the troubled times that may be ahead. My answer is the same now as it was then, your Mercian Soldiers and their colleagues from many fine Regiments will be more than the match for those who believe we will be forced to leave here in ignominy and defeat. Despite the cost we will become stronger as your soldiers become tempered like steel in the Helmand fire.

As a soldier not currently near the fighting I take little credit for the bravery, fortitude and sheer tenacity of those who are fighting in this our greatest endeavour. They have my greatest respect as I am sure they do yours.

To finish this weeks short letter I would urge you to continue your support of your troops here and if you have a quiet moment in your hectic lives spare a thought for the young men and their families for whom the world is in darkness. I have written a short poem that gives voice to some of my thoughts at this time.

A makeshift cross on broken soil,
The final marking of the soldiers toil.
Gone to serve at General Command,
In a distant, unforgiving land.
A place where death and danger walks,
Among the ripened poppy stalks,
And on that final, fateful day,
The enemy stole his life away.
They took his future, but not his past,
Among his friends it will always last.
At home the grieving has just begun,
For a grieving mother for her fallen son.
Many will stop and question why,
This young many should early die.
Beside the arguments and great debates,
The soldier died beside his mates.
As all that’s left when the enemy attack,
Is the friend behind you, watching your back.

Until next week be careful be safe and be good to one another.


  1. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 08/10/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  2. i read this blog weekly and it is with a heavy heart that yet again one of our lads has lost his life my heart goes out to his family and friends and yet the poem puts things into perspective for that thank you to all the lads and lasses serving out there keep safe

  3. My son is out there at the moment and it breaks my heart to hear of all the lives lost and all the injuries, all the young people with so much to live for. The Poem says it all, we are their family at home but they have a second family out there that look after each other. we are so proud of you all, stay strong ,stay safe. Heroes one and

  4. articulate piece, and a thoughtful poem. good work.

  5. Another soldiers MumAugust 17, 2009 at 3:11 AM

    I read your blogs every week, my son is out there two, I find this the hardest thing he has done in 24 years of service, and many postings. Your poem if wonderful, it says everything. It is wonderful that they care so much for each other, but heartbreaking and so hard for them to have to carry on with no time for grieving. We are so proud of you all, keep strong, keep safe your the best soldiers in the world.

  6. I too am a mum of a soldier out there, and my heart breaks also, each time we lose one of our boys. Every mother is so proud of her son,though It is a constant worry to all of us, keep strong girls,and stay safe boys, we all love all of you. What a wonderful poem it brought a lump to my throat.

  7. keep up the good work lads may god be with you

  8. I would like to help with any care packages etc..
    Santa Barbara loves you guyz

  9. Our love and thoughts are with all the troops, we are very proud of you all.
    The poem is brilliant Michael, beautifully written.
    The family are behind you all the way, you are doing a great job x

  10. Our love and thoughts are with all the troops and all their families. We support you all the way and are very proud to have the best soliders in the world. You are doing an amazing job.
    The poem is brilliant Michael. A really touching account.
    The family send you their love and best wishes. Lizzie xxxx

  11. Mike,you maybe able to help me I meet a young Fijian lad recently trianing in Brecon whilst watching the lions play south Africa who was based in belfast and now deployed.I had organised for him and a couple of the other lads to come round and watch the All Blacks game but this didn't end up happening, I would love to be able to send him and his mates a care package but I don't have any detials all I know his name was Mat based in belfast and was due back out in service on his 3rd or 4th deployement a few weeks back. If you happen to know him or have a contact it would be appreciated, my contact is
    I will continue to read your blogs take care of yourselves many of us think of you guys all the time and can only admire from far at your commitment and bravery.
    Jeff Booth

  12. Dear Sergeant Saunders:

    I read your blog weekly and follow MediaOps on twitter to keep up with what ya'll are doing.

    My heart just breaks over the sacrifice that so many are making - know that we in the USA appreciate the UK's partnership in this endeavor and pray for your safe return to your families.

    Thank you for your service.

  13. This is the first blog I have read.
    My son went out to Afghanistan with the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment two weeks ago now. This is his first tour and I miss him terribly and pray for his and all the other serving sodiers safe return home. He is constantly in my thoughts and I am very proud of him and the work he does.
    Look after each other, Michelle xxx

  14. The poem states it all..but that still does not alleviate the fact that we/like other Nato countries are losing brave troops and whilst you have no choice but to be there...I question/like many/ is that country worth one lost soul.. as the mother of two serving soldiers ..I don't want them hurt or dead. I know how I felt when son was in Iraq but this is not a war as cannot always see your enemy..and are they there anyway..or here in our country. I pray for the time when I can put on the TV and not hear of another death. I am VERY PROUD of you ALL and want you all home safe/well with loved ones.GOD BLESS YOU ALL. M.

  15. this is my very first post also,i have a son who is due to go over to afganistan next year,and to all you brave soldiers out there at this moment in time id just like to say keep safe.take care.and return home are all doing a brilliant job out there and you have lots of surporters.
    my deepest thoughts are with the families,and friends of the ones who lives have been taken away,they was heroes,all out there are heroes.take care lads and lasses.and the peom that was written bought tears to my eyes it was beauitul.

  16. my son is in afghanistan with 2 mercian and i am just as proud of you lot as i am him good luck lads stay safe and we'll see you when you come home. wont be long now god bless (STAND FIRM STRIKE HARD)

  17. I made a painting today for all soldiers on the frontline and for those who have fallen. I would like to know how I can get the painting and the accompanying words to the troops. With your agreement, I would also like to use the Duty One to accompany the painting.

  18. My brother who is 21 has just started his army training, and with the tragic losses of our soldiers becoming ever frivalent, the reality of what our troops are going through is really hitting are all amazing and brave men and we as a country, as well as afghanistan depend on you.keep up the amazing work. and what a beautiful poem x

  19. my condolences on yet again the death of another brave soldier from 2 mercian R.I.P and may god bless you all

  20. Am new to all of this as my husband as recently become a soldier - at present still in the UK. I have such mch admiration & love for all of you boys out there, doing your job without question as you've been trained to do. Ignoring the political havoc created by the media & continuing with dignity. I truly hope that you're all home soon and in one piece. You're in my prayers xxxx.

  21. See my tribute on youtube:

    A very well written blog - God Bless you all

    Mick H

  22. I have much respect to you guys. Im currently in the process of creating a website dedicated to the troops of the British Army