My parents both died in a motorway accident in 1974 leaving us in the care of the Social Services. I was ten at the time and had been babysitting my two year old brother that night.
Andrew found a foster home straight away and we were seperated. I guess it was difficult to find me a foster place at that age - most would-be foster parents at the time were looking for younger children. After a few tries, they fairly much gave up on trying to place me and I ended up spending the rest of my time growing up in a care home. I never saw Andrew again.
It was a rough place, full of lads who were there because their parents couldn't deal with them or whose parents were in prison. The few orphans, like me, were bullied on that point. Some of them were quick to tears but not me, they tried everything to break me down - even picking on my size. I was freakishly tall by the age of twelve, a growth spurt taking me up to the height of some of the male social workers, and I used to get called 'Hightower' after that big black fella from Police Academy.
You'd think they wouldn't mess with me because of my height, but actually this made me more of a target because everybody thought they had to square up to me to show how hard they were. The fact that I was passive they saw as me being scared, but actually I didn't react when the other's took the piss because I really didn't care. That all changed though the night that Robert Graham - the self-appointed 'cock' of the home - stole the crutch off a lad he'd pushed down the stairs the week before and was waving it in everyone's face. He made the mistake of waving it at me, so I grabbed the end of it and pulled him towards me, landing a fist on his jaw on the way in. He went down like a sack of shit then spent the rest of the night locked in the toilet crying.
Everything changed after that. I set the rules and we all became like brothers there. In fact, that was probably the happiest time of my life since my parents' death.
This may have been an influence on my decision to join the Army - like I was trying to recreate some of that camaraderie that I felt at the home. But the real trigger was when we all went on holiday to Snowdonia. We spent a week in this big farm house and there was a rifle range nearby where we got to spend time practicing target-shooting with air rifles. As it turned out I had a natural talent for it, scoring more bullseyes than anyone.
I enlisted in the Army in 1982. During infantry training, my sergeant noticed my prodigious talents with firearms and - before I knew it - I found myself doing officer training at Sandhurst.
When I initially enlisted, I was hoping to get to go to sunnier climes - like Argentina - but by the time my first tour came around in 1987, the Falklands War was ancient history and I wound up on the streets of Belfast. The most frustrating part of this assignment, after all that training, was that I didn't get to fire my L42A1 once. You can perhaps understand then why I jumped at the very next opportunity that presented itself.
A company had been given special permission by the Home Office to headhunt for an elite security team from inside the armed forces. The team's exclusive mission was to guard a top secret facility situated on a Shetland Isle (unfortunately, I can't say which isle since it remains classified). It was explained to us that this was a permanent contract and I would not be able to return to the Army under any circumstances. However, the salary was ten times what I was making at the time so I didn't hesitate. Part of me was also flattered to be selected for my talents, little realising that was not the only deciding factor. What I would learn later, when I met the rest of the team, was that we all had something in common: none of us had any family ties to speak of, no-one to miss us if we were to suddenly disappear off the face of the Earth.
And so it proved, when we had the worst security breach on record.
It was during the biggest storm to ever hit the British Isles. History would call it 'The Great Storm'. You may remember it, but I remember that night for something far darker than uprooted trees or tiles coming off a roof. It was two weeks after I was recruited - the dark morning hours of October 16th 1987 - when the six of us were called out to the hill with the vague intel that something had escaped and could not be allowed to leave the island.
I tell myself that maybe if it happened some other night, and the helicopters weren't grounded, we would have had some re-inforcements. I tell myself if they only told us in advance what we were dealing with - instead of telling us it was classified - then maybe we would have been prepared. But the truth is, five men died on that hill that night because I hesitated and because I questioned the order. Because I failed to respect the chain of command and let my feelings get in the way, five of my brothers were wiped from existence except in the memory of those who met them.
I have to live with that every day. Like I have to live with the fact that I survived by acting like a coward and playing dead. My psychiatrist calls it 'survivor's guilt' but it's not. It's just straightforward guilt. Because I am guilty. And getting promoted for eventually doing what I should have done in the first place, makes it even worse.
That's all I really want to say about that. That's all I can say. I can't even tell you their names because 'it never happened' and 'they didn't exist'. I can't even tell that story to the men now under me to illustrate why we shouldn't question orders. Instead, if necessary, I have to bully them into submission - how sickeningly ironic - for their own good.
I tell myself now that, in a few short years, I will retire to my own private island and leave all this behind me. But I know that's bollocks. I will always be haunted by the faces of my fallen brothers.
Last edited by FX Lord; 09-19-2013 at 12:45 AM..
Reason: An attempt to shorten it.