TWO of the group of wounded members of the Light Dragoons being treated to a Majorcan holiday by the British community in Majorca this week, yesterday told their stories, but before talking combat and about their experiences, Lieutenant Corporal Charlie Rocks and Staff Sergeant Grant Cuthbertson were full of praise for the Britons on the island.
On behalf of the total 16 wounded soldiers who have come out to Majorca over the past month and been accommodated by Sheila and Dave at their Pollensa estate, they said that the response from the British community has been overwhelming and humbling. It's been amazing, said Rocks. We've been treated like superstars. It's like having a five-star hotel all to ourselves. We've been invited out for lunches and dinners by complete strangers who have been really interested in our stories, it's been brilliant and the break with the girlfriend has been a major boost, a boost for all the lads, he added.
Cuthbertson echoed Rocks's sentiments. At the end of the day, we're just soldiers doing our job. It's been very humbling how we've been treated and looked after here in Majorca, he added.
Both groups consisted of members of the Light Dragoons with their partners who had all been wounded to different and varying degrees.
23 -year-old Rocks is a Troop Leader, a tank gunner and his vehicle was hit by an IED within just 15 minutes of Operation Panther's Claw being launched on June 4, last year.
The Operation was British-led in Helmand Province, the dangerous front line of the conflict. The IED (improvised explosive device) rolled the tank but the crew managed to escape relatively unhurt, just a few minor fractures and they're still giving me gyp for having only lasted 15 minutes of the Operation, he joked.
That was Rock's second tour of Afghanistan. The first was 2006/2007. We were out there a whole year and took no fatal casualties. In fact we suffered no major casualties at all. But, the second tour last year was tougher and we took a lot of fatalities including two of my troop. I think the situation's changed out there. It's all about IEDs, they're causing most of the injuries and claiming many of the lives. I asked if he thinks the troops should be brought home before the new 2014 deadline given by the British government this week. Just as much as I guess we would all want to come home, we do as we're told. We've got a job to do and we'll do what we're told in order to try and finish it, he made quite clear.
Staff Sergeant Grant Cuthbertson was also wounded after a colleague stood on an IED just a few yards away. He was wounded in one arm and is still undergoing rehabilitation - he may need another operation.
Cuthbertson is a Forward Air Controller.
His front line job is to guide attack aircraft such as Apache helicopters and Harriers, British, American and French to their front line targets from a front line position.
It was while on the front line pin point guiding in attack aircraft by laser and other high tech communication devices that the IED went off next to him. We're controlling the attack air traffic from the front line, we have Apaches letting off their full weaponry just 50 metres away.... we're calling in 500, 1'000 pound bombs, he explained.
Cuthbertson was also in Afghanistan last year, that was his third tour and he is expecting to return. I am now a Subject Matter Expert, and my job is to prepare new soldiers who are going to be deployed to Afghanistan. I don't see the situation changing, once the summer poppy harvest is over, they (the Taliban) come alive again. Things will remain the same for a while, he said.
Asked about the 2014 deadline he admitted that sooner would be better than later. Light Dragoons Welfare Officer, Mick Reed, who has been out on the island to help looking after the troops and their partners, driving them around etc. said that the local community has done a wonderful job and he will be bringing out another group in October.
Only this week, Church Warden at the Anglican Church in Pollensa, Geoff Thomas, went to dinner and presented Reed with 400 euros collected from the congregation in Puerto Pollensa.
Former Irish Guard Stan Bowles and the Bulletin began this campaign last year with one seriously wounded Royal Marine.
The response from the plea put out from the Bulletin has led to some 30 wounded soldiers coming out this year and possibly even more with offers of accommodation etc. slowly coming in for the REME Welfare Officer Cliff Johnson who also wants to bring some of his wounded vets from Afghanistan and even Iraq out to Majorca.
If you want to help, in whatever capacity, contact the Bulletin and your details will be passed on in full confidentiality.