Comment: Yes, we must fight, but don’t forget the human cost

Brenda Hale backs a war on IS but warns against it being 'dehumanised'
Brenda Hale backs a war on IS but warns against it being 'dehumanised'

Syria – another Middle East country that demands OUR boots on the ground.

Of course we will use air power first, but let’s not be coaxed or seduced down the road of dehumanising the real cost of this war by military terms and phrases.

Brenda Hale's husband Mark was number 199 of the 458 British soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Brenda Hale's husband Mark was number 199 of the 458 British soldiers killed in Afghanistan

My amazing husband was number 199 of the 458 soldiers killed in Afghanistan. That number means nothing to anyone but us, and we feel the pain and recognise the loss of the previous and successive deaths.

I am no military strategist or tactician, but I do know we can’t let the very real threat of international or domestic terrorism hold our way of life to ransom.

This is something both Mark and I understood. He joined the Army to serve our country, I married him, knowing I would be required to change my career path and become that Army wife that followed the flag.

Numerous tours – Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Falklands, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan – saw him go wherever Westminster deemed necessary.

Where would we in Northern Ireland be today if the Army hadn’t been deployed to our streets? What would have been the civilian death toll? What would be the state of our economy? Would anyone have wanted to stay?

Where would we have been if we didn’t challenge Hitler? We all know the history – but do we truly understand and value the real cost of our freedom?

With all this in mind as our MPs last night voted on air strikes, I held my breath. I will be very surprised if the air strikes are not a precursor to boots on the ground.

As a family left behind, we struggle daily to live our lives without Mark. The news of imminent action makes me catch my breath as I am catapulted back to the moment when Mark came home and told me he was deploying to Afghanistan; palpitations and flashbacks bombard me and I don’t want anyone else to get that deadly knock on the door, to have to fight the Government for every ounce of help; to sit crying in Whitehall with Government ministers begging for understanding of what our men, women and families need when it all goes catastrophically wrong.

Homes all over the country are planning and looking forward to Christmas, but at ours, it is subdued.

My girls have no daddy to help put the tree up – just a stressed mum; no dad to help with the batteries and putting bikes together, just a mum trying to hold it all together, to make false cheer in the hope that maybe soon it will be real.

The empty chair, the empty bed, the wardrobe full of bespoke suits and cosy jumpers that we can’t bear to recycle.

This is the cost of war that we pay every day, so I appreciate the difficult decision that needs to be taken.

My eldest daughter Victoria was caught up in the bomb scares on the London Underground on Tuesday as she tried to get home from work. This war is not in Syria or the Middle East, it is here; and we must fight it.

I thank the men, women and families of our Armed Forces for what they are doing. I fully understand, like many in Northern Ireland, the very real price of our freedom and the courage that is needed to see this through.

BUT I will shout from the rooftops that if we don’t take into account the cost of military deaths or life-changing injuries, including the time bomb of post traumatic stress disorder and the cost of post-deployment, then we should let someone else do our fighting for we are not fit for it.

Our Armed Forces need to know we will catch them if they fall.

They want to do the job they are trained to do, and we must honour that courage and commitment by FULLY implementing a REAL and comprehensive Military Covenant that is not what it is now – a tick in the box exercise to satisfy officials.