Wednesday, May 12, 2010

'Aren't all the baddies dead yet?': When daddy goes to war

A soldier hugs his son on returning to Britain after a tour of duty. Photograph: Ian Waldie/Getty Images

By Rowenna Davis for the Guardian

William Russell is nine years old and lives in armed forces accommodation on the fringes of London. Behind the high barbed-wire fences and security checkpoints, the houses and neat green lawns makes his neighbourhood look more like Brookside than a barracks. But conflict underpins this peaceful community. William lives in fear of his father returning to serve in Afghanistan, and carries a guilt he doesn't like to talk about.

"He thinks the war is his fault because he's the son of a soldier," says Gale Russell. "I was taking him to school the other day and he said, 'Why isn't Afghanistan over now? All my life it's been going on – aren't all the baddies dead yet?' He went very quiet and my husband took him for a walk. That's when it came around that he thinks it's his fault."

Russell says she doesn't know why her son thinks this way: "I feel very proud of what my husband does but William just doesn't feel the same. The media's partly to blame. All children hear about is death, dying, destruction – even on Newsround. I try and explain that his father's not just going to fight, he's going to help, but it's difficult to get through."

Sitting neatly on his living room sofa, William tells me he's looking forward to moving to boarding school in September. His dad's job has meant that he has already had to change schools three times – boarding school will be his first chance to keep the friends he makes. He talks enthusiastically about studying to become an engineer. Doesn't he want to be a soldier like his father? "No," he says going quiet. "I don't really like violence. I'm a bit too scared. It's really nerve-racking not knowing whether he's going to come back or not." When I ask him what his dad is fighting for, he shrugs his shoulders: "The Queen? I know he kills people."

For the full article click here for the Guardian website

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