2007, Age sixteen.
Freezing my tits off, sitting on the frozen floor of a shell scrape (a temporary, defensive dug in position), somewhere on the training area of Catterick. So dark in the early hours of a cold January morning that I couldn’t even see my hands in front of my face, yet it was my time to be on stag (On watch or lookout). The whole platoon relying on my alertness and observation skills, so that they could rest easy, although I couldn’t see s**t. I remember my hands being frustratingly disabled due to the cold temperatures, which restricted me from being able to unzip my trousers for the meaningless and simple task of going for a tactical piss (urinating whilst maintaining a low profile).
Faced with reality and these extremely cold conditions, which I had never experienced before this moment, I began to feel sorry for myself. I turned to Panks, who also had the pleasure of being on stag and I asked him, the very question that many of you may have asked once or twice before; “what the f**k am I doing here”?
My battle partner Panks, instantly started wetting himself with laughter. Of course, trying to remain tactically sound and disciplined, which for some reason made it all that much more laughable, I couldn’t help myself but to also laugh at the whole situation.
It was here at this very moment, where I first discovered the true value of military friends. In the Armed Forces, you somehow develop a skill for laughing your way through s**t times. Even whilst being shot at, you sometimes find yourself laughing your way through it. The value of military friends is valuable for life. This certainly applies in ‘Civvystreet’ just as it applies in the Armed Forces. There is certainly a bond, a ‘brotherhood’ so to speak and it is important to remember this when times are hard during the transition from soldier to civi.
It’s easy to lock yourself away and swear there is no one who understands you, however there are many like you who do understand. Those people who do understand, will always be those valuable friends, who have also spent time in the trench alongside you.
Thanks to social media and current technology, it has never been so easy to stay in touch with old friends from the forces. I highly recommend establishing comms (communications) with other veterans. They don’t necessarily need to be old mates from your previous platoon, all veterans have that mutual understanding and respect.
So to that end, it is highly important and fundamental to remember that you are never alone.