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From frontline to the dreaded death knock

Published date: 20 January 2011 |
Published by: Helen Davies
Read more articles by Helen Davies


 

JOINING the army was a childhood dream for Colour Sergeant John Paul Myers.

But he never envisaged the roll he currently holds within the Armed Forces or that he would be listed on the New Year Honours List.

Col Sgt Myers, from Leeswood, currently works as a welfare officer for the 1st Batallion Welsh Guards. The role involves looking after injured soldiers and their families and breaking bad news to relatives.

The much publicised death of Rupert Stuart Michael Thorneloe was one of the casualties Col Sgt Myers had to inform a family about.

Thorneloe was killed on operation in Afghanistan in 2009 while in command of his unit.

“2009 was not a nice year,” said Col Sgt Myers. “But you’ve just got to crack on with it.

“The biggest task is looking after the injured soldiers, lads who’ve lost legs or have other life changing conditions.”

On the Afghanistan tour in 2009, he says there were more than 70 soldiers injured.

“They still want a link with the regiment and need help,” he says. “We go to charities or raise money ourselves to help them.”

Col Sgt Myers also looks after the families of the married soldier who move around with the regiment and live near the barracks, which are currently based in Aldershot, Hampshire.

He says the role has given him a new understanding of the impact of war on the families of soldiers back home.

“Before I knew it was hard for the lads themselves as I’ve waved goodbye to family and friends myself, but with this post now I know what it’s like on the other side for the family left behind watching the news everyday.”

Now Col Sgt Myers has been awarded an MBE for his services to Armed Forces’ welfare.

“I’m quite honoured to have been given this,” he says. “I think in the future when I think of the MBE it will always remind me of the sacrifices these lads have made and their bravery.

“I would like to say thank you to everyone who’s supported me.”

Among those who have helped him are his girlfriend Sarah.

He says: “She’s chuffed to bits I’ve been recognised. Sarah’s supported me a lot, I’m grateful to her as some weekends I would come home and she could tell I was upset if I’d had to break bad news to families, even if I didn’t talk about it.”

Col Sgt Myers expects to be moved on to a new post within the Welsh Guards fairly soon as he has held the welfare officer post for over seven years now.

Before that, he had extensive experience serving as a rifleman, sniper and for almost ten years was a mortar fire controller.

He has completed three tours of Northern Ireland and one of Bosnia.

“I’ve made plenty of friends and seen a lot of places I wouldn’t otherwise have been to,” he says.

“I spent three years in Northern Ireland so I know it like the back of my hand. It went through rough stages but there were a few lads who got married when we were out there to Irish girls so there were good times as well.

“But I was there in 1994 when there was the first cease fire, and in 1997 with the snipers.”

Col Sgt Myers, a former pupil of Castell Alun High School, first served in Northern Ireland when he was just 18.

But he says being in such challenging situations at a young age didn’t faze him because of his training in the Mold Army Cadets.

“I didn’t struggle when I joined the army because I’d been in the army cadets for four years so had learned the skills I needed,” he recalls.

Col Sgt Myers recommends the cadets to anyone thinking of joining the army, advice which he has given to his son Mike who could be following in his footsteps.

Mike, 11, is also a student at Castell Alun and is thinking of joining the RAF.

“The cadets can help them decide if it’s for them and teach them a good set of skills.”

Col Sgt Myers joined the Welsh Guards in 1990 aged 16 as a junior leader at the Guards Depot in Pirbright.

He says he joined for two reasons, firstly because his grandfather was in the Welsh Guard, and secondly because the Guard had been to visit the cadets regularly.

“I finished school in June. I knew I was joining the army at the end of August but got a summer job working in a Laura Ashley factory.

“I was ironing dresses all summer, it was good preparation for my army training.”

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