The mother of Brighton-born soldier Daniel Prior has penned a poignant letter to her lost son.
Private Prior, 27, died after being blown up by a bomb while on patrol in Afghanistan in March with the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment.
He had just returned to Helmand province for his final six weeks of duty there after coming home on a fortnight’s leave when his son Logan was born.
He was flown back to Britain with serious injuries and his wife Emily, 20, and four-week-old son were among the family members with him when he died.
His mother Gill, 54, wrote the touching letter as she and her husband Ian, 55, from Peacehaven, and their sons Adam and Lee, both 26, prepare for their first Christmas without him.
The letter was published in The Sun yesterday (Friday 23 December).
Your brothers, Dad and I cancelled Christmas this year because we couldn’t find a way to celebrate it without you.
It was always your favourite time of year – the presents, the parties and the happy times together as a family.
This year should have been the happiest we’ve ever shared. It would have been your first as a daddy, after the birth of your son, Logan, back in February.
But instead of us spending it with you, your wife Emily, and little Logan, as we’d planned, we hid ourselves away from the world and mourned our terrible loss.
Even now, nine months after you died from your injuries after stepping on a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, I still can’t quite believe that we are never going to see you smile again.
Dad and I felt mixed emotions when you told us in 2007 that you were joining the Army. We knew that if you signed up you would almost certainly be posted to Afghanistan and we were frightened.
But however worried we were, we also felt proud that you wanted to serve your country.
I looked at you in wonder. “That’s my baby with his baby,” I thought. You were so thrilled with that little boy of yours, as we all were. You had two weeks’ leave to spend with him and I know that you cherished every moment.
When the time came for you to go back to Afghanistan you only had six weeks left to serve.
My heart went out to you when you admitted you didn’t want to go back, whereas the last time you’d left you had been excited about the challenge ahead.
Every day seemed to drag after that. Then, in March, a military man turned up at our house.
He explained that you’d been injured when you stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device). They didn’t know the extent of your injuries at that stage – but you were being flown home for surgery in the UK the next day.
Emily was distraught – we all were. Logan wasn’t even four weeks old and the thought of losing you was unimaginable.
When we arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham your surgeon explained your injuries were far worse than we’d realised. You were unconscious and you had lost both your legs.
You looked peaceful, as though you were sleeping. Your doctors explained that they had tried everything to raise your blood pressure but nothing had worked.
We took it in turns to sit beside you. I told you how much I loved you and pleaded with you not to leave us. “Logan needs you,” I wept. “We all need you. Don’t go, Dan.” Dad, your brothers and I reminded you of the lovely family holidays we shared and told you time and again how proud you have always made us.
Emily sang You Are My Sunshine then she placed your baby boy in your arms. I willed you to open your eyes and look at your child one last time, as though that might save you.
But just after 4.30am on March 18, a single tear fell from your right eye. Then you were gone. You were only 27 and you died with your baby boy in your arms.
We wept, we held each other and we each wished there was something we could say or do that would bring you back. Then I held your head and said my final goodbye, thankful that at least you’d come home to us.
Leaving you alone in that hospital room is the hardest thing I have ever done.
The months since you died have been wretched, there isn’t a waking moment that passes without me feeling the pain of losing you. I’m so proud and grateful that I knew you.
Emily is being incredibly brave and so very strong.
You would be proud of her. And she’s a wonderful mum to your little boy.
Watching him grow up is a comfort – but it hurts too. He has your nose and I know that your kind nature and good heart will shine through in him in the years to come. He will help heal the wounds that losing you has inflicted on us all.
Now we must look to the new year ahead and our future without you. None of us wants to do that but we have to because we have Logan in our lives and he needs us to be as brave and strong as you were.
I promise you we will all make sure he knows all about you, his brilliant dad.
Rest in peace, son.
Love always, Mum