When you have loved ones on Operations

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#1
........this will be familiar. Lucky Jim kindly consented to me reposting here. I thought it summed up how the people at home FEEL for the duration of that Iraq tour....EVERY time the news is on.

From Lucky Jim's Blog on ARRSE here:

Telic 7 and other things; Chapter 2

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 (21:00:50)
Jim Junior arrived safely in the sand pit. Had to hang around for a couple of directionless nights but then moved on to his posting with 7th Armoured Brigade, where he’s looking forward to doing what he’s supposed to be there for.

Back home there was relief at his safe arrival. Normal life carried on in all its mundane familiarity. Shopping for food, getting the car serviced, all the usual things we do. Then, out of the blue, came a news item that shook me into full alert mode. Someone, it might have been Huw Edwards or it might not, was on my television screen intoning; “British forces have sustained their 99th fatality of the campaign in Iraq”.

A hurried search for the remote control to see if teletext had any more details. Of course there was nothing specific until next of kin have been informed, but it did say that the soldier was part of 7th Armoured Brigade. At that point I felt physically sick. In a split second a hundred thoughts were clamouring for attention, and the rational ones were losing out badly.

Reading on, I found that the soldier was from a different regiment; it couldn’t be young Jim after all. Instant relief, followed closely by a feeling I couldn’t identify at first but which I gradually recognised as guilt. How can I be pleased when I know that elsewhere, dozens of other parents might well be looking at the same teletext page, thinking; ‘that’s OUR son’s regiment’? If I thought I was fearful a few seconds ago, how must they be feeling now?

I suppose it’s just a natural thing we all have hard-coded into us. Look to your own first, and only when you’re sure they’re safe do you then think about others. The guilt is there because we fool ourselves into thinking we’re somehow so noble, so sophisticated, that we can overcome the fierce, primal protective instinct that nature gave us.

Then, in what seems only a few hours, the same thing happened again. Another soldier from 7th Armoured Bde dies, and again hundreds of families hope that it’s not their son. They don’t hope it’s mine any more than I hope it’s theirs; they just want it not to be them that gets the bad news.

I wish no-one had to. Not for this. As I write, my thoughts are with the families of all the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq, and those whose lives have been damaged in this damned awful business.

Good piece L-J....Safe home people.

Le Chevre
 

Legs

ADC
Book Reviewer
#2
This is exactly the sort of thing that the Media should see. It highlights the fear, anguish and uncertainty of the families of our troops serving in Iraq/Afghanistan etc.

A well written piece. Good luck Jim Junior, safe return.
 
#4
I've been on the receiving end to the 'knock on the door' a lot of years ago now. It wasn't high profile and didn't hit any headlines in this country. I can replay every second of that evening as though it was yesterday. I cannot imagine how it would feel hearing the news on TV or radio then receiving a knock. My thoughts are always with the families when these fatalities are reported.
 
#5
It's reassuring to hear how other parents feel. I hugged my son goodbye today... he's shortly off to Afghanistan. I freely admit to sobbing after I'd waved him off. I sometimes wonder if the news coverage is a good thing or not because I know that I'm going to struggle NOT to be glued to the TV for the duration. My heart will miss a beat every time the doorbell rings too. My letters to him will have to be upbeat and that can be a struggle in itself when all I really want is for him to come home immediately because I'm so worried. Yes, I know he chose his profession but it can be hard on those left behind waiting.

He recently lost a friend in Iraq and I can understand what Lucky Jim says about the feelings of guilt which follow the relief that it isn't your son who died.
 
#6
Although I am now non deployable, I feel terrible everytime I look into the newspapers!

Why?

Because I feel that same fear that my parents and later my wife felt. I feel for everyone going to a place far from home. Sometimes, like many I have spoken to, I wish I could swap and give some people a rest but then again I feel lucky not to go any more.

Let's hope that there won't be any more knocks on doors!
 
#7
Was a young Offr (in my Aust Army days) back in the 70's and as Bn Duty Offr received a signal announcing the death of a lad from another unit interstate but whose folks lived locally. I had to go around in Service Dress to inform NOK, his parents. I guess the vicar was a giveaway as the mother started crying at the door, slammed the door shut and was screaming at us to go away. We hadn't even said a word yet. Eventually the Father came to the door and invited us in, we sat down and told them the sad facts. The parents did what parents do and were inconsolable. For me though the experience was a shocker. I had never had to break such news before but more importantly my flippant, carefree approach to military life and the gungho attitude towards risk taking as a Pl Comd suddenly hit a brick wall.

The duty never fell to me again but I think it should be a requisite duty of all Offr to deliver such news. It is one of those important maturing moments when soldiers become more than just another bloke in your pl. From that day on I have always thought of Mums and Dads when I looked at soldiers giving them orders for patrols in Belfast, or Iraq or dozens of other less dangerous places. At the risk of being called soft I admit that I often looked upon the enemy in the same light, especially young lads.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#8
Good post Birdie...thanks....I think being the guy or gal who has to give the knock must be one of the toughest things anybody has to get to grips with.....I imagine most people just fall back on the mask and let the Padre do his thing....
 
#9
I asked my other half about this. She has now got into the habit/practise/magic charm thing of deliberately not listening or watching the news whilst I'm away. Fairly recently, on the Gulf thing, she felt that she had to do so as life was increasingly being linked to the TV or radio news and the incessent sensationalism proved too much for her.
The same attitude permeated her contact with me. I tried religiously to write and we even went to the trouble of getting a couple of dictaphones so we could record the everyday occurances of our separate lives for each other. As the deployment went on, the traffic became increasinglt one way and I got the usual raft of negative feelings about it. It was only later, after we'd talked about it, that I realised that this too was a defence mechanism for her.
I'd like to say that the deployment defence mechanisms are a one off, short term thing but have found that they're not. The effects seem to be aggregated and so each deployment seems more difficult for the partner staying behind to cope with. My last trip away was to nowhere more "dangerous" than Bosnia yet the significant other's defence mechanisms kicked in immediately: if we hadn't have spoken of it before I would have gone off as a very unhappy trooper.
One of the things that my wife said has stayed with me: she said that in a way, she was cutting me out of her life so, if the knock came on the door, she would be better able to deal with my death as, in some ways, I was already dead to her. When this is a culmulative thing, it can have a cancerous threat and, unlike most of us returning who can blow it out of the system with a good run ashore and some POTL, the stay behind party never has that release. The problem comes when you find that you are permanently thought to be dead to her, even when you're back at home.
 

the_boy_syrup

LE
Book Reviewer
#10
People tend to forget how bad it is for NOK back home
When I went away my missus never having been through it before was reasonably upbeat we had tears and all of that but I don't think she realised what would happen as Telic 3 had been fairly quiet until near the end
As you do without thinking anything off it I sent home the obligatory pictures of us and our snatch etc
Cue Sky news with pictures of snatches being captured in Basra and set on fire and tales of troops fighting a desperate action to get away.
I was fine living the high life in Al Ammarah but mrs syrup saw a snatch from our battle group and presumbed the worst
With op minimise in place we can't correct them ( rightly so after some mong mixed up two names ands told his misses so and so's been wounded when he was in a completely different country!!)
The 24 hour rolling news channels are trawling everywhere looking for incedents to cover and have them on screen sometimes moments after they happen.
I seem to have in the back of my mind about 10 years ago an RAF Nimrod crashing at an air display in the states and it being on tv practically live before the nok where infomed.
Perhaps MOD shouldn't release details of any incedents until nok have been informed and given their permission for it to be released it must be hard enough for people to receive that terrible news without it being on tv every half hour with pictures of a loved one lying under a cam net as we have sometimes seen.
The problem is the news dosen't just affect one person it effects everyone who knows someone away it even saddens me when I don't know someone but still think about what couldv'e been
 
#11
In the village my parents live in there are about a dozen families with sons in the Highlanders. They like, me, are probably sitting and waiting for that call or knock on the door. Its a crock of sh*t, trying to get on with your boring day to day life while you wait and wonder. I have no idea if my brother was involved this morning and if he wasnt then someone elses brother or son or husband was.

I was wondering this morning how many members of parliament has sons or daughters in the armed forces? I wonder if the count is even 1.
 
#12
Here we go again. Two more British soldiers killed in Iraq and a third wounded, although fortunately his wounds are not thought to be life-threatening. Next of kin have yet to be informed and so once again, for hundreds if not thousands of parents, partners and friends it’s a matter of waiting. And waiting, and waiting...

But the waiting can be turned into a positive thing if you try hard enough. No news is good news as the saying goes, and I think it’s never more true than at times like this. Apart from their comrades the first people to know the names of the fallen men will be their next of kin. For them, every hour that goes by without the knock at the door increases the odds in their favour. Is that a rational thought process or is it self-delusion? Right now it doesn’t matter. It’s a coping mechanism.

A lot of people will be grieving tonight. To all of you with family or friends out there, please let it not be you.
 
#13
I think it's terrible when the media start screaming about another fatality in war before the NOK have been told...how uncaring and stupid can they get? I for one would hate the idea that my nearest and dearest were sitting there worrying if it had been me while some poor individual is making a papers headlines. That's me done
*gets off soapbox*
 

The_Duke

LE
Moderator
#14
Unfortunately it is not only the media, but also some unthinking "friends".

The Duchess returned to her office at work to find a print out from the BBC internet news page left on her desk telling of the deaths of the 6 RMP lads. Unfortunately it just stated "6 paras killed", and she took the usual and understandable action of thinking the worst.

Shame that some people do not think more about the outcome of their thoughtless actions, and the press give more effort to accuracy over speed.

Duke
 
#15
My 16 year old lad can't wait to get in the Army and I will not stop him. He is a good, intelligent boy, strong on outdoors and sports and although we live in Australia now he wants to serve in the British Army, just like his old man. I'm so proud of him I could burst. But I secretly dread the experience that Lucky_Jim and others are living.
 
#16
Birdie, I felt exactly the same way. My lad's now 21, been in since he was 18. It wasn't my choice for him (although I've never believed in parents putting undue pressure on their kids' future employment choices) and had secretly hoped he'd be a pro rugby player because he was in Leicester Tigers Academy. However, I can't imagine a more fitting occupation for his particular character than the one he has now. Mind you, I would certainly wish for much better pay and conditions than he currently enjoys!

It's the burden of being a parent to worry. Us "military" parents suffer that even more but perhaps it can come with the consolation of huge pride in what our kids are doing. To me, each and every one of them are heroes, warriors and the bravest of souls. I compare my son to the scummy chavs hanging around the streets causing trouble and thank my lucky stars that he's not one of them.
 
#17
I was speaking to my friends in college about how they'd feel and I was almost horrified by how they didn't seem to care. This was one of the things that I considered before I joined up, who I may leave behind and although I love what I'm dong, it's always there in the back of my mind. I think you'll never really know what you feel until your in that situation.

Like you said ruby, parents are pround of thier kids and my mum told me as long as I was doing something I loved instead of sitting in front of the TV she was happy for me. We were at this point discussing the possibility of going out on tour. It's then you realise how much people mean to you.
 
#18
Just a little follow on from my previous post about delivering a death notice to parents. For the remainder of my service, at anytime I was in a Command appointment every 3 months or so I would insist on a letters home parade. The Pl or Coy would form up on a normal morning parade with letter home in hand (in envelope as I never wanted to read them). For many lads this was the only time they wrote home to Mum and Dad. It's probably all changed now with internet and mobile phones.

healer, this thread is tinged with a bit of parental emotion but don't be put off a career in the Army. Just remember to keep in regular contact with your loved ones and be sensitive to their worries, ie down play your duties and develop a routine of making contact home as soon after an incident involving others in theatre to reassure your folks (if possible).
 
#19
Thanks, I'll remember that. Nothing could put me off a career in the Army even that niggle, but my thoughts are with all those who are out there and all those left behind.
 
#20
rickshaw said:
I asked my other half about this. She has now got into the habit/practise/magic charm thing of deliberately not listening or watching the news whilst I'm away. Fairly recently, on the Gulf thing, she felt that she had to do so as life was increasingly being linked to the TV or radio news and the incessent sensationalism proved too much for her.
The same attitude permeated her contact with me. I tried religiously to write and we even went to the trouble of getting a couple of dictaphones so we could record the everyday occurances of our separate lives for each other. As the deployment went on, the traffic became increasinglt one way and I got the usual raft of negative feelings about it. It was only later, after we'd talked about it, that I realised that this too was a defence mechanism for her.
I'd like to say that the deployment defence mechanisms are a one off, short term thing but have found that they're not. The effects seem to be aggregated and so each deployment seems more difficult for the partner staying behind to cope with. My last trip away was to nowhere more "dangerous" than Bosnia yet the significant other's defence mechanisms kicked in immediately: if we hadn't have spoken of it before I would have gone off as a very unhappy trooper.
One of the things that my wife said has stayed with me: she said that in a way, she was cutting me out of her life so, if the knock came on the door, she would be better able to deal with my death as, in some ways, I was already dead to her. The problem comes when you find that you are permanently thought to be dead to her, even when you're back at home.
i am going to be mobilised again in just over a week and will be in iraq over the summer. this will be my third tour in 5 years and my former partner decided she couldnt face another one and broke up with me. now i understand it wasnt just this that led to the break up but it was certainly a major part of it.all of those parts of your post could have been written by her and she has said them to me on numerous occasions.

when i returned from the last two tours i felt i was constantly in her way and was disturbing her well worn routine. i was underfoot and felt unwelcome in my own home. she too said that she had to almost erase me from her mind so she wouldnt live in fear for the months i was away and that it would take time to get over that way of thinking. however it did last what seemed to be a long time and tainted our relationship

During my first tour in Afghanistan every time there was a casualty she would panick and would spend hours in front of the tv waiting for anything that would tell her i was ok. during my second tour during Telic 2 she refused to watch any news at all and only ever learned anything had happened when a friend or work colleague told her. she said it was a form of self defence and her way of not facing her fears every day.

she did warn me she would not stay with me for another tour if i was mobilised again and fair enough i suppose. i was still suprised when she upped and dumped me. in hindsight i shouldnt have been.

we are paid to do the job and know and accept all the risks involved. they are not and we cannot really understand the stress and pressure we put on them when we are in danger.

in my case i am TA and there isnt the support network of families there is in the regular army so she had to face everything on her own unable to share her worries with anyone around her, feeling isolated and alone. i cant really blame her i suppose for not wanting to go through it again but i still feel shit not having her to rely on back home
 

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