My friend, marine biologist and writer Silja Swaby, telephoned to suggest I listen to a replay of an interview (with former soldier David McGough) which had been on Saturday Live on Radio 4. Silja thought the content would be of interest because of the theme of my book and the similarity of my character's problems to that of David, (a young medic who was suffering both physically and mentally because of his experiences in war zones). I managed to pluck the story from the Radio 4 'Listen Again' menu.
David's recounting of the incidents he and others had to face - especially being a medic (although, as such he was expected to be a regular soldier too) was heartrending. He talked of young men and women in their late teens / early twenties who had joined the army, he suspected, without fully realising what horrors lie ahead and how many when those horrors erupted - often with devastating results - wished they were elsewhere - usually at home with their families.
He talked of a young Iraqi girl of nine who approached his small patrol and to whom they gave water and chocolate. A crowd of armed men appeared and dragged her off. As the crowd grew more agitated and began making noises about hanging her - he had a decision to make. Did he and his men stay and try to save her from the baying one hundred and fifty armed men or did they leave? He knew if they stayed and a firefight ensued there would be blood shed on both sides. He made the decision to leave - a decision, he says, he regrets to this day - a decision that will never let him go, because the girl was hanged. David is home, now, but the trauma of war has left its mark on him. You can listen to the interview (it's around 18 minutes into the programme) on this link: iPlayer Radio Console
I and thousands of others, are so grateful to these young men and women because their bravery in volunteering means that, in my case, my grandsons will hopefully never have to face this sort of trauma.
The more we can let people be aware of the horrors of war and the responsibility we have to these young people when they return damaged, both physically and mentally the better. Maintain an army - it may be needed, but demand war is the last resort, not the first and demand answers of those whose agendas kill our young people so that we are not led blindly into conflict.
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