Tonight, Belles and I went on a coffee date after school. We have discovered the sheer delight of Sainsbury's own cafe which has these great views of the A49 and people coming to shop, fill up with fuel, having their car washed and visiting McDonalds. Ellie simply loves coming; she just enjoys observing the commotion. We were quietly minding our own business when a young lad and his girlfriend came to sit near us.
Then I heard him comment "Is she in year 11?"
I was a bit taken aback by this strange voice and with him saying "She". I looked him over and thought he looked like "an alright lad" and so I said "Yes"
He replied "She was in year 7 when I was in year 11"
A-Ha! So they were in school together. Ok......I'll accept your questions.
I said "You must be about 20 now, then - yes?"
He confirmed. He then asked "Is she still using her electric wheelchair?"
and I said "Yes".
He was quite a pleasant lad and asking so many questions about Ellie (there was no way Ellie was talking to him; strangers get the "hold on to my arm kind of treatment"). He kept looking at her and me and smiling. The conversation then got onto him. I asked what he did now and he said "Im in the Army, in the Coldstream Guards".
My heart just flumped. This young lad, this incredibly young looking lad was in the Army? I was floored. I mean, I joined the Royal Air Force when I was 16 but back then there was no hideous wars going on and looking back then, I think I looked older than him at 16 than what he does at 20.
My mind was racing after yesterdays devastating news of those 6 YOUNG men who all lost their lives in Afghanistan. And I kept looking at this lad and I was worried for him. This young man who was polite and inquisitive and talkative. Most 20 years olds don't give a damn about anyone. Hell, even Ellie's school friends don't even talk to her when we see them in the supermarkets or shops. They don't even acknowledge her. But he was such a breath of fresh air to be around even though it felt like the strangest thing. Ellie and I can go about our business for week's on end without anyone talking to us. And by chance, this lovely lad paid attention and made Ellie feel like a normal girl and "involving" her.
I asked how he liked the Army and did he come home much. His girlfriend was so young and so pretty. I just know how Army life is with a relationship and I could see these two were in love. He then mentioned he was transferring to The Duke of Lancs Regiment which, after yesterdays tragic news, brought it all home for me. One of those 6 came from the Duke of Lancs Regt. This was too close for comfort for me. But then I started to get a grip. This lad wasn't forced to join the Army and by the looks, he was pretty proud of the fact. And I commend that. I kept looking at him and then Ellie and found it hard to relate that they were once in school together. And now he is the man and about to take his first tour in Afghanistan next year. And whilst my heart aches for these amazing men and women who consign themselves to such bravery/danger, I also admire them for signing that dotted line in the first place. THEY REALLY ARE HEROES - war or not.
As they got up to leave, I ceased the opportunity to ask if he would mind having a photo taken with Ellie. She does not remember him from school at all but I want her to remember this moment forever as testament to this young man's thoughtfulness, courage and bravery. It was only at the time of this photo did I ask his name. His name is Jordan. It means "one who descends". Pretty ironic, right?
Isn't he sweet? Oh, ahem... I mean butch ;)
Jordan, if you are reading this, I just want you to know that I/WE think you are amazing. I know nobody tells you that, especially your Commanding Officers. You only get an appraisal if something has happened to you and I'm afraid that isn't how it should be. Know how much that people like me, just the general joe public, think you do the most courageous things. And we are very grateful for it.
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