31.10.2011, Age twenty-one
Sitting here in the warmth and comfort of my little home in the countryside on the Isle of Wight, with my log burner keeping me warm and an endless supply of tea. It is small creature comforts like this that I sometimes take for granted.
Opening the door to the harsh cold rain and wind as I make my way to work in the early hours of the morning, to where I will be working in a cold, dark and wet building. Yes, I can confirm that I am a little moaning bitch when it comes to working these days, but maybe it is time to take a seat and reflect on my life and realise that things aren’t so bad.
It could be worse, instead of living within these four warm walls and under a solid roof, I could be living in a wet and muddy compound in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but a thin bed sheet like material to keep me warm.
Sometimes, in fact, a lot of the time, I have a tendency to moan about my current life. However, when flicking through some of these letters that I had sent home to my family from Afghanistan in 2011, I can’t help but feel a little ashamed for taking my life for granted. I happened to come across this letter which I had sent home to my sister and this resulted in me taking the time to reflect on my life as it is now, compared to those who have no choice but to live in a war-torn country.
Dear Megan (my sister)
I just wanted to take the time to write you a letter, it doesn’t mean that I like you, I’m just bored, as it is 0400hrs in the morning and I am on radio stag in the ops room (manning the radio in the operations room).
My sister knows that I love her really.
When I get home and show you pictures of this s**t hole, it will certainly open your eyes and make you appreciate things a lot more. Most kids out here have no shoes and maybe one set of clothes which is usually a dish-dash (like a thin bed sheet material).
Their homes are nothing more than a square structure made out of mud, straw and sheep s**t and with no roof. I get cold at night even when wearing a buffalo jacket, so them f**kers must be freezing.
One kid had a pet hornet, I s**t you not, the little boy had this hornet tied to a length of string with the other end of the string tied to his finger. I have no idea how the little lad was able to catch a hornet and tie a piece of string to it.
One chap even has a pet cow and he takes it for a daily walk around our CP (Checkpoint). This place is f**ked up.
I am living in a small ten by ten-meter square compound within a larger compound. The only lighting we have is our head torches with a good supply of batteries. So far, we’ve been eating nothing but rations and the snacks that you guys have been sending out to us in the shoebox parcels.
I’ll be in touch
Myself and AW giving you a tour of our checkpoint, see below.
Although I personally wrote this letter home to my sister, reading it now is as much of an eye-opener to me as I hope it is for you, and I have definitely had a moment of realisation. Though I may currently be working out in the elements from the early hours of the morning and until the sun sets in the evening, I still get to come home every night to a warm shower, hot scoff (dinner) and a comfy bed. I may be struggling financially but I’ll always have good people around me and a supportive family, so on reflection, life isn’t that bad right now and it could be substantially worse.
However, I do have a contradicting thought. Despite all of the above, even though operating in Afghanistan, we had limited resources and we were in the middle of nowhere, life was pretty simple compared to life in civvy street. Granted, we had to face life threatening situations and sometimes we stared death in the face as we fought head on with the Taliban. Nonetheless, with the fighting aside, life was rather straightforward.
Yes we had some heavy contacts (engagements with the enemy) and we would have to face the risk of this daily, but if we managed to survive through this, then everything else was so transparent. We didn’t have to worry about finances, outgoing bills, the stress of being in your overdraft and there was no need to worry about getting your car through the MOT.
A controversial thought I know, but sometimes that’s how I feel.
Please feel free to share your personal thoughts and feelings on this subject as I am keen to hear from the perspective of other veterans.
Thank you for taking the time to read this week’s blog, as always, I appreciate you investing your time into ‘Soldier to Civi’.
I hope to see you next week.