It only seemed like yesterday that I had to face the realisation that my little brother was leaving the safety of his nation & love of his family, to face the terror of conflict & horror of war. That day in March seems like so long ago now, but I remember the last day I saw him before he left, like it was yesterday. We’d had a big family lunch back in Yorkshire. I gave him a hug as I was leaving to drive back to Manchester and it didn’t seem real. It wasn’t until I was mid M62 that the gravity of what he was going to do hit me.
On the 5th October I’m extremely pleased to say he landed safely back at Brize Norton. Nearly 7 months after leaving for Afghanistan as a Royal Marine Commando, Nick returned as a son, a brother and a father. So it only seemed fair that we threw him a little get together to welcome him back.
My amazing parents & sister-in-law (Jodie) got to work and organised a great afternoon in Tadcaster for not only our families, but Nick’s nearest & dearest as well. I was asked to do a quick talk about 21:21 at the same time, after all it was Nick that inspired me to create the project. Luckily I already had a presentation pulled together, but the night before the party I was round at Nick’s adding some of his photos from Afghan. Turns out he made a short movie montage of his 7 months on the front line, which he agreed to show as part of the 21:21 discussion as well.
The day arrived, the banners were in place, and people started to arrive. Jodie had prepped one of my cousins, that after I’d presented 21:21 & shown Nick’s film, they were going to hit the crowd hard for donations. If anyone knows Jodie or Sian, then you know we raised a good amount – over £200 to be precise.
Nick had made a strategic exit to find a certain nephew of mine as I introduced the challenge project. After which I shared with everyone, friends & family, a glimpse of Nick’s life while in Afghanistan; a glimpse of the life that we’ll never truly know about, both because he doesn’t want to tell us, but also because we don’t want to ask. Images from Bastion and from the front line depicted a place far from our perception of war. It showed us the reality.
We saw his friends & his colleagues, mixed with Afghan locals & children. We saw the deception & ingenuity used by the Taliban, but also the mighty force of the British Armed Forces. We could only imagine the horrors that he must have experienced, and must have acted himself. The reality we saw wasn’t the full picture, but at this I think we were all pleased.
Towards the end of his story, he paid tribute to one of his best mates from training, Martin ‘Fish‘ Gill, who was sadly killed in June 2011.
As I was forcing back the tears, I looked around the room to see not only the girlfriends & wives doing the same, but also the lads. To say it was an emotional moment doesn’t even come close.
In loving memory to all.
It was really touching to see so many of his mates come to see him and welcome him home, but it doesn’t come close to the joy seen from Mum, Dad, Jodie & Toby. Seeing his family back together, and having my family back together again was…..well I don’t have words to describe it.
Needless to say it was a very special day for us all.
Help for Heroes [21:21] Challenge