Padre Robin Richardson, currently in Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (3 PARA) writes about the death of WO2 Colin “Tom” Beckett at the weekend.
I have been struggling this morning in thinking what to write as we all come to terms with the death of WO2 Colin Beckett. We only ever knew him as Tom, and around the lines now it is only ‘Tom’ of whom we speak. We all have two lives in the Army, that which takes its form in uniform, and the other which lives away from what we are at work. These lines are blurred though, and when I talk with folks in the arena of banter and ops and the difficult tasks that are frequently the soldier’s lot, conversation is often about that other side of who we are. The Parachute Regiment – and 3 PARA especially – will ever remember ‘Tom’ Beckett, and so shall I, for this week I lost a friend. But his memory will live on well beyond the lives of those of us who knew him at work.
It was just a few weeks ago that as I crouched next to Tom by a low building, him watching his arcs, ever vigilant, keeping danger as far from us as he could, that he spoke in tender terms of his life at home; of all that he hoped for away from the fields of Afghanistan and in the silences that strong men sometimes need, he spoke of the love that could not be framed in terms of words alone. And for just a moment, in a fleeting glance as he adjusted his position next to the wall, Tom’s contented grin betrayed the fullness his heart has known.
On the night that Tom died I flew into his Patrol Base with the Commanding Officer and the Regimental Sergeant Major so that we could spend some time with those who had been with him that morning. Even in rawness of grief there were smiles, because that is what Tom brought with him. And as we sat and chatted in ones and twos I heard from one young lad something I had experienced myself before: “…and Tom pushed out to the west, just a little way, to watch that arc.’ He always did. He always had our backs. He always watched.
Our hearts are all low as we prepare for Tom’s repatriation later on this week, but it is not just our loss that hurts, but our thoughts and our prayers for Tom’s family and how they are suffering. Though there are no words that can do him justice or express our feelings and condolences, we can but ask that God may hold his dear ones close through the storm and comfort them in their grief.