On the front line: Grenadier Guard George tells of life in the combat zone

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GEORGE Smith’s summer holiday means more to him than the average 20-year-old’s break -

the soldier has flown home from

Afghanistan to stay with his family.

The former Bishop Wulstan pupil

is fighting with the 1st Grenadier

Guards on the front line in rural

Afghanistan.

He works with the Afghan po-

lice and also conducts reassurance

patrols, talking and working with

farming communities.

George, who was sent out to re-

place a soldier who had lost part of

a leg in combat, is no stranger to vio-

lence himself

“I’ve been caught up in a combat

situation a few times - the first thing

you do is hit the deck and try to fig-

ure out where the gunshots came

from and what is going on,” he said.

“Sometimes you keep your head

but other times you just want to get

the hell out of there.

You think ‘what am I doing here?’

he said.

“There have been times when bul-

lets have flown past and I’ve thought

‘that was a bit too close’.”

George has gone for weeks without

being caught up in fighting, but one

week had to deal with gunfire four

days in a row.

“It puts life into perspective when

you’re fighting next to someone with

a wife and six-year-old daughter at

home,” he said.

“It’s surreal but you just have to get

on with it.”

He knows several people who have

been seriously injured while fighting.

“It’s horrific, but it’s a massive mo-

rale boost when the base gets news

that someone hurt has made it home

and will pull through, even if they

have lost part of their leg or suffered

a similar injury.

“Sometimes it is tough, you do

things you don’t want to do, but you

sit down and unwind with the guys

over a brew and you get through it all

together.”

He added: “I’m glad I joined the

army. Like any job there are days

when you want to pack it all in but n From front page

those feelings don’t last long.

“There are bad times but the

good days make everything

worth while.”

George said that although

many people held the armed

forces in high esteem, few re-

alised the sacrifices soldiers

had to make, and the realities of

what they had to deal with.

His mum Kay doesn’t always

find it easy, but understands her

son’s choice. George has want-

ed to be a soldier since he was

a little boy.

“It doesn’t seem to get any

easier as the days go on,” Kay

said.

Asked how scary it is, know-

ing that whenever the doorbell

goes or her phone rings it could

be the arrival of the news she

dreads, she said she simply can-

not think about it.

“I can’t put it into words. I try

to avoid watching or hearing the

news. My son is out there and

could get killed any day of the

week. I have no choice but to

stay positive.

“It’s at its worst when his

wife, Fran, and I haven’t heard

from him for weeks at a time. I

want to know how he is; I want

to know how he is feeling and

whether he’s OK. There have

been times when I have cried

myself to sleep. The fear is too

much to bear.”

Despite the emotional tur-

moil she said she never wishes

George had chosen a different

career path.

“I wouldn’t want him to do

anything else. It’s what he al-

ways wanted to do and he loves

it. I wouldn’t like it if he had a

desk job, it wouldn’t suit him.

“He’s been army barmy since

he was three or four. It would be

selfish of me if I said I wanted

him to do something else. It is

tough but I think about how

proud I am of him every day.”

She said she hoped her words

might resonate with other fami-

lies and parents in Rugby whose

children were in the armed forc-

es.

In March Kay raised almost

£1,500 for Help for Heroes after

organising an event with Rugby

Riding Club.

George is due to return to

Afghanistan for a further three

months.