FOLLOWING the safe return of thousands of troops from Afghanistan, a wave of many more soldiers has been dispatched to Helmand Province – including many from in and around the town.
A ten-strong team of Teries from the Royal Scots Borderers battalion has been deployed to the Asian war zone and are set to return to their families at around Easter next year.
Greg Ritchie, a fitness instructor who trains fellow recruits, is among those set to spend the next six months away from his family – and he has more reason than most to ensure that a 12-day rest and recuperation period with his family is perfectly-timed.
Greg and wife Lorraine welcomed their first child, Elly, into the world almost two years ago – and the pair are expecting their second baby [a boy] in February. “He’s just hoping he’ll be back for that,” said Lorraine. “Elly was premature, and if this one is early Greg is hoping he might be able to swap with someone else’s R&R.”
Greg is embarking on his second tour of Afghanistan, having also served in Iraq and Bosnia for six months each.
“It’s every two years they go away,” said Lorraine. “You just get used to them being at home before they’re off, and it doesn’t get any easier. He enjoys his work, but not having to leave everybody.”
Chris Burns, 26, joined the army at the same time as best friend Greg when the pair left school around a decade ago. He married Rachel, 25, two years ago this month, and the pair now live with six-month-old daughter Sophie in Weensland Road. His scheduled leave is during the festive period, meaning there is a good chance he will be able to be with his family during his daughter’s first Christmas.
“He thinks it’s something he’s got to do,” said Rachel, a carer at Deanfield care home. “He doesn’t say much about going over there when he’s at home – we don’t really like speaking about it. But, when he’s over there, he does enjoy it.”
Eight more local soldiers have been posted to Afghanistan. They are: Peter Drysdale, Raymond Flemming, Craig Duncan, Connor Wilson, Dean Hislop, Kyle McLeod, Bruce Taylor and Thomas Anderson.