I was thinking about Sgt Steve Roberts this morning, the soldier from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment who died in Iraq because he didn’t have body armour to protect him.
What upsets me most about his death is the waste involved, his life was simply squandered due to a lack of resources. He didn’t die leading his men in battle or trying to save someone’s life, he died because a man in a suit somewhere decided that he didn’t want to afford Sgt Roberts’s regiment a basic level of personal protection.
And because money is spent on more important things, like a new sign for the Deputy Prime ministers Office for example, people like Sgt Roberts continue to perform unimaginably dangerous jobs without the support they deserve. And he did so not because he was ordered, but because that was the sort of bloke he was. More importantly, that’s the sort of people they are.
So not only has a life cut needlessly short, but a regiment is now short of one of its most important ranks, Sergeant. The people young soldiers and officers turn to for advice, safety and recognition. The bloke that looks after everyone and says simple things like, “Well done lads, get your heads down and meet me back here in two hours.”
We know that soldiers are made of different stuff, and more often than not perform way beyond the call of duty. But it is that precise quality that allows others to take advantage of them in the worst way possible. Consider here the Metropolitan Police. The idea of Jon Reid asking them to venture out onto the mean streets of St Johns Wood without body armour is unimaginable. It wouldn’t happen, and rightly so, but the army have always been an easy target for accountants and politicians. Whether its trying to shave off a few thousand from next years budget, or posing for tabloid photographs with real men, they’re an easy touch.
Over the last few days, in the run up to Christmas, I’ve also been thinking about his wife Samantha and what she’ll be doing whilst we’re all spending time with our nearest and dearest. What will go through her head when she wakes up and realises again, that her husband isn’t there to wish her a Merry Christmas.
And what of Tony Blair? Consider what will be going through his head as he gets ready for church, the good Christian that he is.