http://www.michaelyon-online.com/media/images/disp/Brit9/Photo-12.jpg" border=1>British soldiers from ?4 Rifles? have been heartily welcomed home. Although many people had never heard of the excellent soldiers of 4 Rifles until recently, all of Great Britain seems to know they?ve returned. With all the press they?ve been getting, there has even been press about all the press.
Local police estimated that the crowd of parade viewers reached 10,000, some of whom undoubtedly turned out because of the press. But I?d heard from the soldiers about a special person who would have been a parade of one to greet their return. Before the parades and publicity, the soldiers knew this one person was always with them. While we were out lurking around the Iranian border, several soldiers talked to me about her, saying things like, ?Please write something good about her.? They wanted her to know how much they appreciated her many gestures of support, especially the handwritten letters she sent to the wounded soldierswho numbered over seventyand their families.
http://www.michaelyon-online.com/media/images/disp/Brit9/Photo-10.jpg" border=1>The commander of 4 Rifles, LTC Patrick Sanders, pictured here in parade, invited me back to Great Britain to see the return of his soldiers.
My journey to Great Britain began something like this: I flew in an American helicopter one day, and was with our own soldiers out next to the Syrian border. From there we flew to Mosul. Then via US Air Force C-130 to Baghdad, and from there I boarded an RAF C-130 to Basra. Then, a flight to Kuwait but there was no manifest for me on the flight because I was supposed to have gone to Qatar. Fortunately, the Royal Air Force rather flexed the rules, for which I was grateful, and I had a seat on a jet filled with British soldiers en route to Cyprus. It?s strange how secure one feels on a flight full of American or British soldiers. I do, anyway, especially after spending as much time in combat with American or British soldiers as I have; my respect will never diminish.
http://www.michaelyon-online.com/media/images/disp/Brit9/Photo-11.jpg" border=1>And so back from the Syrian border to Mosul to Baghdad to Basra to Kuwait to Cyprus to the United Kingdom, and there British soldiers I did not know made sure all was well, and then the next day they delivered me to their base, just near Stonehenge, where rolling verdant meadows were a most welcome view. No mines.
Standing before Stonehenge with Captain ?Bertie? Bassett, I was struck by irony of the unknown, whether it takes the form of the mysteries that come before us, like the ancient monuments, or if instead it lurks in the fog of a future we can?t quite predict because it depends on the will and desires of others.
http://www.michaelyon-online.com/media/images/disp/Brit9/Photo-9.jpg" border=1>Bertie, on parade, his pride in his 4 Rifles soldiers evident to all, his concern demonstrated by visiting wounded men and attending memorials as everyone prepared for the medal ceremony with their Royal Colonel, Lady Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
Almost within minutes of meeting Bertie in a minefield on the Iranian border I learned that his concentration was evenly divided between two hugely important considerations: whether the combat soldiers under his command had everything they needed, and whether the woman he loved would say ?yes.? Out where even the midnight sky is orange, Bertie had shared his elaborate plans to propose to his girlfriendvery serious and elaborate plansand it was clear that he?d worked out every detail except her answer. So every day, in between telling me about his soldiersbragging about them if truth be toldhe would say, almost as an aside, and almost always completely out of the context of the conversation: ?I hope she says ?yes.??
� 1998 -