As I sit here preparing for Christmas with family and friends, my thoughts turn to those who will be have a very different kind of Christmas time.
Lance Corporal Adam Drane was only 23 years old when he died last week in a country that could not be more different from the place of his upbringing: Bury St Edmonds. Friends talk of his warmth and love for his family; colleagues in the Royal Anglian Regiment talk of the kindness, humility, sense of humour and intelligence that made him a natural leader.
Lance Corporal Adam Drane will not only be remembered by his friends and family but also by the whole nation because of the cruel statistic that he represents: He was the 100th British soldier to die this year in Afghanistan. He was in Afghanistan because he chose a honourable profession that was exciting, worthwhile and rewarding, but which carries with it the permanent risk of injury and of death. He died doing the job he loved.
Few people now understand why our troops are in Afghanistan. Some would argue that the job they went out there to do could now be done better by other means. Many point out the benefits of security and freedom of expression that many Afghans can now enjoy, but quietly wonder if the price we are paying for that freedom is too high. Others think that the conflict has nothing to do with us at all and that we should bring them home.
I don’t know what the answer is. I’m pretty sure that Lance Corporal Adam Drane didn’t know either, but for him that wasn’t the issue. He had a job to do, and he did it, no matter what the price. While his family grieves for him, I think we should also utter a prayer of gratitude for him and all those like him who put their lives and safety in the way of harm in order to serve others, every day, professionally, unflinchingly and selflessly.