I enjoy all the aspects or being a soldier,
being there, getting the job done and helping people.'
by JULIE - ANN SPENCE
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
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
"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.