Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland



Lisburn soldier tells of Afghanistan

I enjoy all the aspects or being a soldier, being there, getting the job done and helping people.'


Private Danny Stewart from Lisburn, who has recently returned from Afghanistan.

A LISBURN man who serves with First Royal Irish has spoken of how he looked death in the face recently during a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

21-year-old Danny Stewart, who joined the army at the age of 16, volunteered for service in war-torn Afghanistan following two years in Iraq.

While there Danny and his platoon were ambushed by Taliban fighters and the young soldier admits he feared he would never see his family in Lisburn again. Danny, who grew up in Lisburn, was a pupil at Dromore High School but his life-long dream was to join the army and follow in the footsteps of his brother and father, who served in the army for 22 years.

Having served in South Armagh and Londonderry, Danny was involved in policing the Drumcree situation. However, nothing could prepare him entirely for the experience of serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We were stationed in Shaibah in Iraq and also spent six weeks in Baghdad," explained Danny. "We spent a lot of time dong escorts and patrols. We also spent time in Basra and up north as well.

"There was a bit of pressure in Iraq but it was nothing compared to Afghanistan. There were quite a few incidents in Baghdad and we were always on our guard but it did sharpen you."

However tough his time was in Iraq, it was in Afghanistan that Danny came up against heavy enemy fire and it was while in he Helmand region that he feared he would never see his Lisburn home again.

"We went to Afghanistan in June and we were stationed in Gereshk for six months," explained Danny. "Whilst there we were ambushed for two hours.

"We went in as a regular patrol. We split into two teams, with one going to speak to local people to see if there was anything we could do to help, for example building schools for them. We were there for about an hour when we spotted two guys and went off to investigate. They opened fire on us.

"At the time there were on-going situations in other places so there was no support for us. Our drills should have been to get up and get out of there.

"It is the worst I have ever come up against. At first you feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights but then you get straight back into it and put down as much fire as you can to break them and enable you to get out of there. It goes through your head that you are not going to get out of it and you think about everyone and everything at home but you have to push that out of your head and get on with it.

"The ambush was well thought out but luckily everyone got out. Things had been tense before but nothing that bad. It makes everyone more wary but it is for the good. It sharpens you up a bit."

With many people opposing the war in the Middle East, Danny said that feeling can sometimes get to the soldiers, but he had to ignore all those things.

"We try to shrug off the anti-war feeling because we know we are trying to help people. If people could see it they would agree with what we are doing" he said. Despite coming close to losing his life, Danny is a career soldier, fulfilling his life-long dream of serving his country and he would not hesitate to return to the Middle East. "I would go back again," he said. "I enjoy all the aspects of being a soldier, being there, getting the job done and helping people." However, for now, he is taking a well-deserved break back home in Lisburn and is enjoying relaxing with friends and family before he goes back on duty in a few weeks time.

Ulster Star