average British soldier is 19 years old…..he is a short haired, well
built lad who, under normal circumstances is considered by society
as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears and just old
enough to buy a round of drinks but old enough to die for his
country – and for you. He’s not particularly keen on hard work but
he’d rather be grafting in Afghanistan than unemployed in the UK .
He recently left comprehensive school where he was probably an
average student, played some form of sport, drove a ten year old
rust bucket, and knew a girl that either broke up with him when he
left, or swore to be waiting when he returns home. He moves easily
to rock and roll or hip-hop or to the rattle of a 7.62mm machine
He is about a stone lighter than when he left home because he is
working or fighting from dawn to dusk and well beyond. He has
trouble spelling, so letter writing is a pain for him, but he can
strip a rifle in 25 seconds and reassemble it in the dark. He can
recite every detail of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use
either effectively if he has to. He digs trenches and toilets
without the aid of machines and can apply first aid like a
professional paramedic. He can march until he is told to stop, or
stay dead still until he is told to move.
He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation but he is not
without a rebellious spirit or a sense of personal dignity. He is
confidently self-sufficient. He has two sets of uniform with him: he
washes one and wears the other. He keeps his water bottle full and
his feet dry. He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never
forgets to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend his own
clothes and fix his own hurts. If you are thirsty, he'll share his
water with you; if you are hungry, his food is your food. He'll even
share his life-saving ammunition with you in the heat of a firefight
if you run low.
He has learned to use his hands like weapons and regards his weapon
as an extension of his own hands. He can save your life or he can
take it, because that is his job - it's what a soldier does. He
often works twice as long and hard as a civilian, draw half the pay
and have nowhere to spend it, and can still find black ironic humour
in it all. There's an old saying in the British Army: 'If you can't
take a joke, you shouldn't have joined!'
He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his
short lifetime. He has wept in public and in private, for friends
who have fallen in combat and he is unashamed to show it or admit
it. He feels every bugle note of the 'Last Post' or 'Sunset' vibrate
through his body while standing rigidly to attention. He's not
afraid to 'Bollock' anyone who shows disrespect when the Regimental
Colours are on display or the National Anthem is played; yet in an
odd twist, he would defend anyone's right to be an individual. Just
as with generations of young people before him, he is paying the
price for our freedom. Clean shaven and baby faced he may be, but be
prepared to defend yourself if you treat him like a kid.
He is the latest in a long thin line of British Fighting Men that
have kept this country free for hundreds of years. He asks for
nothing from us except our respect, friendship and understanding. We
may not like what he does, but sometimes he doesn't like it either -
he just has it to do.. remember him always, for he has earned our
respect and admiration with his blood.
And now we even have brave young women putting themselves in harm's
way, doing their part in this tradition of going to war when our
nation's politicians call on us to do so.
stop for a moment and if you are so inclined, feel free to say a
prayer for our troops in the trouble spots of the world.