War hits home for families

FOR millions of people all over the UK, the launch of war will have brought new fear and anxiety to those whose loved ones are serving in a military capacity somewhere in the Middle East. Today, with her own boyfriend a part of the proceedings, Debbie Watson talks about the painful absence and the desperate longing for contact.

By Debbie Watson

FOR millions of people all over the UK, the launch of war will have brought new fear and anxiety to those whose loved ones are serving in a military capacity somewhere in the Middle East.

Today, with her own boyfriend a part of the proceedings, Debbie Watson talks about the painful absence and the desperate longing for contact.

IT'S been seven long weeks now – and still I'm not used to it.

Worse, I know there could be several more anxious ones to come, while my boyfriend continues his military role in the Gulf.

In all honesty, I think I thought I'd mastered the worst part of it when I fell into the 'routine of absence'.

Most Read

I was used to the lack of calls, the missing texts, the empty evenings and the knowledge that his voice, his attention and his friendship were now no longer there in constant supply.

And yet, the moment war finally became a reality, the tears came flowing all over again.

It had been a long time since I'd shed tears as long and as hard as I had done the day we had stood beside his car in the small hours of a Saturday morning – him dressed in his desert military gear – our clothes being coated white by a newly arrived flurry of snow.

I'd thought those would inevitably be the worst tears.

I hadn't counted on this.

With war now underway – and in the full glare of the 24/7 media spotlight – I can't help but be reminded of the dangerous reality into which my own boyfriend has entered.

I see the pictures and I read the headlines.

I analyse them with a sense of dread that I feel like a nauseous wave deep in the pit of my stomach.

This is it.

This is what his military career was all about.

This is what I failed to grasp – or, quite deliberately in my state of fear, chose not to.

Above it all, it is the lack of contact which I feel the most as these days go on.

We live in an age where loved ones need never be out of contact.

They (as we did) can text, talk on mobiles, e-mail…….we need never be without a virtual connection between one another.

And yet, the moment he left me, that connection descended into little short of a complete void.

I waited days for the first letter and weeks for the first call – then, saviour of our modern age, some bright spark delivered the capability of morale-boosting e-mail facilities to his base.

In those stressed, lonely, anxious first weeks, it was truly a momentous thing to receive his words up there on the screen – and sometimes, should we be lucky enough, even to bump into each other in cyberspace for our version of a personal one-to-one chat.

And yet now, as headlines about bombings, attacks and alerts surround me, all that has vanished without trace.

There are no calls, no e-mails, and I suspect there will be nothing half as precious as those hastily-penned blueys for many days yet.

It is like, for want of any better description, our relationship has been temporarily placed into some unreachable abyss.

I know it's there. I know – or at least I spend every moment willing it – he's there. It is just that, for now, I can't have the honour of its full presence in my life.

The truth is, at the tender age of 25, I'm naively fresh to all this.

For all the millions of mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers – and of course the children, who have gone through this military-driven gulf of absenteeism so many times, I, on the other hand, am starting out.

From living what, for all intense and purposes was a relatively civilian life with my military boyfriend, suddenly I am thrown in at the deep end of an emotional pool – learning the full reality of what service life brings.

Yes, I know full well that he signed on that dotted line to live his professional life this way.

God knows I have heard enough people say it.

But do you think for one moment it makes the fear and the absence any easier?

Do you think I'm somehow more accepting of the inevitability of it all, and of what the consequences might be?

Of course not.

I love this man and I won't be fully at peace until he is back – safe, sound, and in constant communication with all those of us who will spend the next painful weeks praying for him.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter