Remembrance – Don’t forget those who are left behind

On the 23rd March 2009 I deployed to Afghanistan as the Commander of a seven man Fire Support Team, our role: to co-ordinate the use of Artillery, Air Support and Mortars for the Black Watch Battlegroup.

My Second in Command Bombardier Craig Hopson was soon called back to the UK for the Birth of his first child Amelia. On his return it was clear to see that this 24 year old 18 Stone Yorkshireman had been humbled by the experience and his outlook on life had now been changed.

On the 25th July whilst on patrol in Helmand Province we were clearing a small village in order to set the conditions for the upcoming elections. Bombardier Hopson was on a separate patrol, approximately one kilometre to the north. As we were conducting a meeting with the local elders I heard a large explosion.

It soon became clear that the patrol to the north had hit an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and that there were several serious casualties. As more detail came over my radio I soon realised that Bdr Hopson was one of them. As the helicopters arrived to extract the casualties all I knew was that he was in a critical condition, unconscious and not breathing with a faint pulse. For the next two hours I patrolled through the compounds and poppy fields not knowing whether he was dead or alive. Finally I returned to the compound where we had established our headquarters. As I walked in it seemed as if everyone was looking at me differently and I began to fear the worst.  My Company Commander then came over and informed me that Bombardier Hopson hadn’t made it. I stood in a dark and dusty corner of the compound with a cigar in one shaking hand and a bottle of water in the other trying to deal with the gravity of the situation.

Since we returned from Afghanistan just over a year ago I have had the honour of spending time with his parents, his fiancée and his baby daughter Amelia. Their strength and the dignified manner in which they have always conducted themselves since Craig’s death should be an inspiration to anyone.

Whilst I have seen death before and since that fateful day in 2009 I have never lost someone so close to me, Craig died fighting for his country, doing a job that he loved. As a soldier you get used to being shot at and being in danger, but we often forget that it is the families at home who have the hardest struggle. Young Amelia will grow up having never met her father and his fiancée will never have the wedding she’d dreamt of. Often when we think of Remembrance Day we think of old men in wheelchairs wearing blazers and rattling collection tins.  But this year I would ask you all too also spare a thought for the families that are left behind.

They are the real victims of war.

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3 responses to “Remembrance – Don’t forget those who are left behind

  1. Linda Fradgley November 12, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    That is such a special piece of writing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Craig lives on in his beautiful daughter, who is so much like him. He is missed by so many people.

  2. Hayley November 23, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Wow powerful stuff. Beautifully written piece about a wonderful person.

  3. Pingback: Blog Assessment « James Banks Online Journalism

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