My son was always an active little boy who loved playing outdoors with his friends. He was also a talented footballer and a member of our local athletics club. He was a kind and thoughtful boy too – always thinking of others and putting their needs before his own.
He expressed an interest in joining the army in his early teens but I was adamantly against the idea. I have been anti-war and a pacifist all my adult life and the thought of my son being killed or maimed in action was something I had great difficulty imagining. But my son was deadly serious about joining up and there was nothing I could do to stop him.
I still hadn’t come to terms with his chosen career when he started his training. We had huge arguments which caused terrible tension between us. He was home one weekend and we had the worst row ever when he strongly defended the army’s continuing involvement in conflicts around the world and I argued fiercely against it. We didn’t speak for weeks afterwards.
The thought of him fighting and possibly dying for his country whilst we weren’t speaking was agonising but nothing was going to stop him fulfilling his dream – to make a difference to other people’s lives – that was how he saw it – and to defend his country, his family and friends. I just couldn’t see it that way and refused to accept his explanation, however passionately he put it.
My worst fears were confirmed when my son was posted to Afghanistan. I’d listened to reports of British soldiers being killed there on what seemed like a daily basis and I was terrified for him and in turmoil about what our own fights were doing to our relationship.
Trying to come to terms with him being in constant danger, I started to keep a diary. Being able to express myself and re-read my thoughts really helped and the next time my son came home on leave, I asked him to read some of the things I’d written.
Doing this was a real turning point. We talked for hours and the misunderstandings between us seemed to vanish. He realised, through reading my journal, how hard it had been for me to accept him becoming a soldier and the fear and anxiety it caused me 24/7 when he was fighting in a war zone. I finally understood the enormous courage and commitment it took for him to do his job and accepted his reasons for feeling so strongly about it.
His career as a soldier has helped him to become an extraordinary person and I can now say that despite my reservations, I am 100 per cent proud of him!