Mary is sharing the story of her son Ashley, who featured in the Panorama Documentary ‘Broken by Battle’ https://www.bbc.co.uk/
My beautiful son Ashley was a caring young man, life and soul of a party, will go to any length to help anyone, loved his family and siblings, but he was tender person in my eyes to tender for the army, he had 2 sets of parents and 9 siblings whom he loved so much and very close to them. .
He always wanted to join the army so at the tender age of 16 he started his basic training, he loved his training but missed, by 1 point, to become a sniper, due to a broken wrist so logistics it was.
I was so proud of Ashley, but secretly I wanted him to fail because I knew of people who were suffering with Complex PTSD and the failings of lack of care from the M.O.D and, Ashley being so tender, would struggle with horrors of war.
But Ashley passed with flying colours so that was the start of his military career, he got posted to Germany, Queen Anne barracks where it all began , life in Germany for Ashley was amazing he loved it, the party atmosphere when off duty things he told me what he got up too, well a mother didn’t want to hear , he did make me laugh.
Then on leave he told me he was being deployed to Iraq Optelic 9 ..my anxiety was through the roof straight away thinking all sorts.
We had the big family and friends farewell party, and loaded Ashley with a family album , photos of the party and all the other things you load them with, sweets, toiletries etc.
I couldn’t watch the news at all, frightened to see what was happening in Iraq , my mind did enough imagining for anyone.
Ashley rang me half way through his tour at 4am , crying, really upset saying he couldn’t protect them, that he witnessed 2 young children pass away from horrific injuries then the line went dead.
On Ashley’s return from tour, we picked him up from Brize Norton , he walked through the door not as my bubbly son, it destroyed me.
On our way home I asked him if he wanted to talk about it, he just shut me down.
3 days later we were due to go on a family holiday to Greece, Ashley drank a lot , he went missing for 24 hours with a few locals on a drinking mission, I was so worried, but my husband said he’s just fought a war he’s blowing off steam and the next day, he came back to the hotel in a delicate state .
I knew deep down then things were not right with him. When we got home, I told Ashley to talk to his CO , he just laughed saying you can’t do that mum.
Ashley was then stationed at Preston Barracks and was preparing for deployment to Afghanistan, he decided after consuming a lot of alcohol he needed to come home, so at 2am he drove on the motorway at 125mph to get home, but was pulled over by the police. At 3am, I got the phone call he’d been arrested.
We attended civilian court and Ashley was fined and banned for 2 years, I asked what possessed him to do that, he said because I can’t go to Afghanistan mum , they took my licence so now I can’t drive, even over there so Ashley didn’t go.
His career turn into a bit of a mess he told them he wanted out of the Army, and went on sick leave with depression .
His father and I got in touch with his Regiment and Ashley was given an appointment at Chilwell Barracks to be assessed with his mental health , his 1st appointment he was told to man up and never went back.
In 2009, they approved Ashley to leave the Army but he needed to attend military court for the drink driving offence and was sentenced to 21 days in Colchester Military prison, then he was discharged of his duties straight from there.
I was relieved thinking I’ve got my son back, I can help him and sort him out. To start with he was doing ok , he got a job with his step dad and met his beautiful girlfriend Chloe , but soon after the drinking started again, so Ashley missed a few days here and there at work, which caused a bit of tension in the household as his step dad was the manager.
A Few weeks later, Ashley decided he needed to sort himself out and wanted to find a place for him and Chloe, we helped with this so Ashley and Chloe moved into their new home. Within just 6 weeks in their new home, we lost my father, his Grandad, who he was very close to, so Ashley’s drinking got worse, his relationship ended and Chloe moved out.