In this blog, Padre Robin Richardson writes from Camp Bastion about the death of Private John Howard on 5 December.
I’m writing this entry back at Camp Bastion; I don’t get back here that often, and this time my reason for being here is a sad one. Private John Howard was killed in action this week, serving with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force and making the ultimate sacrifice in the struggle to give the people of Helmand Province, and Afghanistan, the future they’re asking for at every meeting I’ve been to. ‘If we can have security, if you can keep the Taliban away, then things will be better for us.’ I’m not a commander and I’m not a reporter or a spokesman for anyone other the Church who have loaned me to the Army, and yet I hear the same thing again and again. So, as I sit here having to accept the death of one of our bravest and best, I know that Jack (it’s how John was known) was making both a difference to the lives of people who for decades have been largely voiceless and a measurable mark in the history of ISAF’s support of the people, government and security forces of Afghanistan.
I will never get used to seeing a young man’s possessions being carefully boxed up in the silent liturgy of our farewells; I will never get used to planning what to say at the vigil or ramp ceremony that is soon to come and I will never get used to the fact that for another family, the sacrifice of a son, a brother, and a beloved is one they will always have to carry.
For now, our thoughts and prayers are with Jack’s family and friends, and though we mourn with them, we must also continue with our work, our mission and the challenges that lie ahead, and pray that our efforts might be a fitting memorial to Jack and to all the fallen who have gone before us.