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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 September 2006, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
One mother's son
British soldier in Afghanistan passes a poppy

Every time Lesley Frost hears of casualties among UK soldiers, her heart freezes as her thoughts turn to her son Jay, a British Army officer, posted to Afghanistan. While UK troops have claimed a 'tactical defeat' over the Taleban in the south, the threat remains.

When I heard Jay was going to Afghanistan, my initial reaction was absolute panic.

Lesley and Jay at a function at Sandhurst
Lesley and Jay before his posting
Although he hadn't lived at home for the previous five years, the thought of him going so far away filled me with apprehension. He has always visited regularly and I suppose I've known he was just a few hours away if I needed him.

He was home in Devon on leave for the week before he flew out. Most of this time was spent sorting out his kit and catching up with family and friends, but we also spent a lot of time talking about Afghanistan.

We discussed the situation there, how he felt about going, how I felt about him going. We even had the dreaded conversation about what to do if the worst happened.

This increased my anxiety but Jay remained calm, positive and at times excited. Above all, he was proud. Proud to be chosen to do the job he was going to do and proud to be serving his country.

Well of tears

Saying goodbye was the hardest part. I drove him to the airbase to catch a 6am flight. I stayed in the car while he took his kit inside.

Jay in Afghanistan
Jay in Afghanistan
It was April, it was dark, it was cold and raining. As I watched all the other lads arriving, dressed in khaki camouflage uniforms and carrying huge amounts of kit, the enormity of what was happening hit me.

Some were laughing and joking, some were sombre. I felt so proud as I watched them preparing to leave their families and serve their country. I knew they were about to experience conditions and circumstances the majority of us back home can never imagine. This triggered the tears I swore I would keep under control.

Keeping in touch has been easier than I expected. His letters sometimes take up to three weeks to get here, and sometimes two or three arrive at once. He's tried to make telephone contact once a week. Two weeks was the longest we went without hearing from him, but for us, the expression "no news is good news" really does apply.

For the first few months we also got regular e-mails. These came to be eagerly anticipated by family and work colleagues. They were entertaining and newsy, complete with pictures and descriptions of his surroundings and experiences. True to form, they were filled with great wit and compassion. Unfortunately, due to changes in his circumstances, they stopped coming in June.

Battlefield deaths

News of the first British soldier to be killed in Afghanistan during my son's tour came as a huge shock. He was home on compassionate leave at the time, and the thought of him going back into what I began to appreciate was a war zone made my blood run cold.

Lesley Frost
The nagging doubt never goes until the name is confirmed - then it's relief first, guilt, then grief again for those affected this time
Every time I hear news that a British soldier has been killed, everything freezes, just for a minute. My heart begins to race, my legs take on a life of their own - or just fail completely - and a cold hollow feeling grows in the pit of my stomach. It seems like this goes on forever but I'm sure in reality, it's just a moment or two. The logic clicks back in and I start thinking rationally again.

Even when you're pretty sure it's not your son, the nagging doubt never goes until the name is confirmed. That's when the next roller-coaster of emotion begins. Relief first, followed by guilt, followed by anger and then grief again. Grief for the soldier and for the relatives who are affected this time.

I have mixed feelings about the news coverage of Afghanistan - too little is known about the situation, and we hear little about why British troops are there in the first place.

UK CASUALTIES IN AFGHANISTAN
UK soldier in Afghanistan
40 have died on operations since 2001
Of the 40, 21 died from illness, accidents or non-combat injuries
And 14 killed in 2 Sept crash of Nimrod MR2 aircraft
I appreciate that we cannot and should not be privy to details of military operations, but we have a right to know the truth. Everyone should understand why we are sending our sons and daughters out there, and what it is they are supposed to achieve.

After 14 British servicemen died when their aircraft crashed in Afghanistan, I was shocked at some of the negative comments on the Have Your Say section of this website. But if the public is not informed properly about our military operations, what other reaction can we expect?

Yet I dare anyone to tell us the job they are doing is worthless. My son is training Afghan soldiers to protect their country and people. He is proud of the job he's doing and so am I.

I know he has made strong relationships with his interpreters and the local soldiers he's serving with. They are grateful and appreciative of the help they are getting from our troops. It would be nice to hear that on the news every now and then.

I don't want my son to be in Afghanistan, I would much rather he were home. Fortunately his first tour has came to an end this week and we'll see him in a few days. I say "first tour" because there is a very strong possibility he'll be going back.

If he does go back, I'll worry again. I'll lie awake at night trying not to imagine what he is doing. I'll shed many more tears for mums I don't know, but I'll defend him and his fellow soldiers to anyone who questions the job they are doing, which is, in essence, protecting us all.

Interview by Marianne Garvey of Have Your Say.




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