A journal from a soldier
May 15th 2006
The orange red sun rose over Helmand Province, enlighting the rocky caverns and chasms with a wave of beautiful sunlight, as if cleansing the land from the darkness of night. As sunlight scrolled over the province, it revealed Camp Bastion, where I was stationed. I looked up at the clear, blue sky. I wish I could say I was looking forward to this day but I would be lying if I did. Today was the day of Operation Mountain Thrust – the target: Taliban fighters in the south of Afghanistan. I can only say that I have never been so scared in my life than I have now. Let’s just hope God or Allah or some higher being will be protecting us.
May 21st 2006
Everybody is afraid now. Maybe they don’t say it but you can tell by their eyes....terror. Just waiting for Death to call them from a sniper’s bullet. A man even hung himself using a shower rod just before role call! All I can think of is ‘that could have been me’. I met a young Canadian boy – about eighteen years of age – called James Gatesford during a patrol. You didn’t need to look at his eyes to see the fear that he was trying to contain. When he held his gun, he was shaking....when he stood to attention, his whole body seemed to shake, like a snake’s rattle....and when he tried to talk, there was always a stutter in his voice. I didn’t want to say anything, just in case I make anything worse for the poor sod. But what can you do? War cannot be without its’ deaths. Orders from the top has just came in this morning telling us to be on the lookout, since Taliban forces have been spotted in the area. I hope to God, and Gatesford, that success is within reach.
5th June 2006
GET DOWN! MOVE OUT OF THE WAY! GO! GO! GO! SHOOT! We have just been attacked by a platoon of Taliban soldiers! A group of scouts are already dead from machine gun fire! Gatesford was nowhere to be seen, and now, the sudden shootings have caused the squad to split into different directions! These guys were good! Such coordination, we didn’t have a chance in hell. But I did my best. I shot like a machine, never stopping until orders said otherwise. We shot gracefully, every bullet had to count or it would be over. Reload, shoot, aim, fire! Reload, shoot, aim, fire! Remember those words, Sergeant had said, and you’ll survive. But I can hear is screaming! All around me. Death! It’s unbearable. I wanted to run away, but this wasn’t some child’s game where you could just leave. We were losing men, real men, fast! I pushed myself into a empty trench to just escape it for one moment but next to me, I saw Gatesford. Alive. But he was saying something strange under his breath. I looked down and his hand was covered with blood. He must have been shot. Medic! For God’s sake, Medic! But they didn’t come. The sound of shooting and shouting had drowned out my voice. I took off his webbing and uniform until I got to the wound. It was bleeding fast! I’m not sure whether I can save him.
4th July 2006
Gatesford’s body was sent home on the 21st, after dying from injuries. I was congratulated for my help. Doctors told me that what I did extended his time to live, but unfortunately, due to the bullet, he suffered internal bleeding and died before he reached the medical bay. Even though I was told I had done something brilliant, I ran my mind back to how I could still be talking to him now. What could I have done?
31st July 2006
Finally, the Operation had come to the end! Although some of us were upset that our primary objective had not been gained, but soon we’d be getting a flight back to England and the closest we’d be getting to any sort of war was watching a rerun of Saving Private Ryan. Although we’ve been told not to get our hopes up. There could still be Taliban patrols somewhere that could be planning an attack as I speak to you now. Hello, my name is Corporal Shaun McGregor, and I serve for the British Artillery Unit. What’s your name? What do you do?