The silent liturgy of our farewells

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.

5 thoughts on “The silent liturgy of our farewells

  1. Excellent article, says everything that should be said about how one feels after the loss of a comrade and how one has to react. It is a a sad fact that it is does not become easier to say what should be said regarding a soldiers death, we are sometimes at a loss as to what we should say and what people want to hear. It is a fine line to walk and a lonely one.

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  2. Even the most prepared person can never be ready without their Angels’ loving Guidance & warmth. Tnx Robin. God bless Jack XX

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  3. Robin, be assured of our prayers for you all at this time.

    I pray that as you minister to the needs of others around you, that you will feel the presence of God Himself minister to your needs also. May He give you the words you need and the strength to deliver them in these coming days.

    2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

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  4. ‎”If everyone cared and nobody cried,
    If everyone loved and nobody lied,
    If everyone shared and swallowed their pride,
    Then we’d see the day, when nobody died”

    (curtesy of Nicleback)

    Hopefully the above words from a song will one day become reality.

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  5. Robin, it’s wonderful to be able to read about your work and gain an insight into life out there. We are praying for you and are so proud of you. Love Em, Harri, Dougie and Louie x

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