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Iraq war veterans share 'precious' wartime letters to mark 10 year anniversary of withdrawal
21 May 2021, 09:44 | Updated: 21 May 2021, 10:08
Iraq War veterans have shared "precious" letters they sent to and received from friends and family to mark 10 years since Britain withdrew from the Middle Eastern country.
Former soldiers, who suffered life-changing injuries during the conflict, explained how letters from loved ones kept morale up.
The letters – known as ‘blueys’ for their blue envelopes – were sent from wives, children and other soldiers.
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Corporal Simon Brown led a successful mission to rescue six soldiers when he was shot in the face.
He shared a letter he wrote to the man who saved his life, Corporal Warren Ward, after waking from a 17-day induced coma.
Reuniting 14 years later, Cpl Ward told Cpl Brown how that letter stopped him taking his own life after suffering spinal injuries later on in the war.
He said: "When I was down, I was in that dark place and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get out of it... everything almost got on top of me so I got my letter out and I read it...
"In the first line I'd start to get a lump in my throat and then halfway down I'd get a tear. It has got tear marks on it. But now I celebrate it."
Royal Military Police officer Mark Clougherty gave an insight into letters he received from his wife and two sons.
The couple were expecting their third child when Mr Clougherty was sent out to Iraq.
He said the 18-year-old letters were a "precious family time capsule".
"The separation was really hard on us all but especially my younger boy, my wife had a keyring with a photo of me made for him and she gave him one of my T-shirts which he slept with under his pillow.
"The unfolding war was all over the news and although the boys were young, they knew I was in danger."
Cieran, who was six at the time, said in his letter: "I can't wait to go swimming and to McDonald's with you (and) also push Niamh in her pram... when you come back I am going to jump on you and race with you in the street... I really miss you".
Mr Clougherty suffered with PTSD after a near-death experience where he was almost struck by a Challenger tank.
RAF airman Matt Neve also suffered PTSD, with part of his job being to transport injured soldiers to hospitals.
He sent letters to his fiancée, Zoe, while he was in Iraq.
Reading the letters back, Ms Neve said she wanted veterans to know that "it's OK to ask for help".
As ambassadors for Help for Heroes, the veterans have been able to get support throughout their recovery and help others with similar experiences.
Mr Neve competed as an archer in the Invictus Games in Toronto in 2017 and Mr Clougherty will be representing Team UK in the 2022 Invictus Games.