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We had survived the war. We were going home. In those final weeks before leaving Afghanistan, my comrades and I were inseparable. We knew that once we arrived back in the UK, things would not be the same again. We would always be friends, but the bonds would be looser. Our relationships would be concerned with talk about rugby and women, not life and death.
We knew this, and we feared it. Like lovers on a summer holiday, our affair was finite. And so we spent every minute of our final days at Camp Bastion in each other’s presence, basking in that unspoken comradeship.
Mates - Sister - Battalion - Tour - Idea
Like several of my mates, I had volunteered to stay on with our sister battalion for a second tour. The idea of never being in conflict again left me feeling hollow. The request was approved, then overturned. I felt sick with jealousy of the soldiers who would be involved and sick with hate for the men who had denied my wish.
I hate them still. More so than the enemy. At least with the Taliban, I knew where I stood. The day we landed on British soil in February 2010, we were taken by bus to our camp. Many families were waiting. I’d told mine not to come. They’d see me soon enough.
Ranks - Camp - Gates - Warrior - Vehicle
We formed ranks outside the camp and marched through the gates behind a Warrior armoured vehicle, the assembled families clapping, smiling and crying. I felt no such relief, or elation. My war was over and for the first time in years I could see no future tours. There was now a timetable in place bringing an end to operations in Afghanistan. No further opportunities to pull the trigger and become the soldier that I had always longed to be. I collected my car keys from the guardroom...
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