The Soldiers are Welcomed Home

The soldiers marched in from the camp, which is two miles out of the town. It rained steadily all the way.

Most of the soldiers were in desert gear. The band wore their white pith helmets and they and the leading company were in dress uniform, navy blue and red.

The streets were lined with people. There were lots of flags. Groups of children from the different schools had made banners.

From the window of the newspaper office, I looked down on a sea of coloured umbrellas.

The band led them in.

The crowd clapped as they passed. You could her people saying “There’s David”, “Isn’t that Dorothy’s boy?”,“ They do look smart”.

There was an inspection at the town centre.

People were quiet at first.

Suddenly a girl called out “I love you Josh”. Then another: “I love you Kyle”.

The crowd tittered and then it was quiet again.

Then the CO spoke and read out the names of all the dead on this latest tour in Afghanistan.

That made me think of the pictures – eighteen Adams and Stephens and Richards and Kevins, looking you straight in the eye, their green berets pulled down to the right.

Then the soldiers were stood at ease and dismissed, for a family day at the cricket ground with bouncy castles.

As the crowd was breaking up I came across Graham and Georgie.

“It makes me angry that we refit thousands of ambulances for fat people but we can’t give our soldiers night goggles”, she said.

I later learned that one of the marines had been killed by a roadside bomb, which had been detonated by a 14-year-old boy who had been offered $80 to set off the device.

His father turned him in to the police because he was afraid he was going to become a Taliban fighter.

The boy was sent  to prison.