Jan 24 2013 by Tom Duffy, Skelmersdale Advertiser
Skelmersdale dad rebuilds life after horrors of Helmand
A SKELMERSDALE dad who witnessed the horrors of war has been left a broken man after completing a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Former soldier Mark Minton has revealed to the Advertiser in an astonishing interview that the atrocities he witnessed in Helmand have taken him to the very brink.
Mark, 28, has now decided to speak out to help fellow soldiers and to break down the stigma surrounding post-traumatic stress disorder.
The former Lathom High pupil was discharged from the Army on medical grounds after completing a harrowing five-month tour of Afghanistan with the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.
The death and carnage he witnessed has left the father-of-three young boys unable to cope with life back in his home town.
Mark is haunted by the fate of Ali, a little Afghan boy who died after suffering appalling injuries when he was caught in a Taliban mortar attack.
Mark said: “He lost a leg and an arm. He reminded me of my eldest son, Dylan. Sometimes when I carry Dylan up to bed, I see Ali in my arms.”
The Skelmersdale man was also scarred by the aftermath of a Taliban raid in which several members of a family were decapitated. He said: “They carried out a revenge attack on a family who they thought had provided information to British forces.
He said: “Their bodies were brought to us by relatives. They said to us ‘You are to blame for this.’ The Taliban had chopped their heads off. I was not trained to cope with things like that.”
Mark’s job was to train Afghan police officers to use automatic weapons and defend their community.
A routine patrol through a village ended in disaster when an improvised explosive device blew up in a policeman’s face, killing him instantly.
Mark was armed with a general purpose machine gun, and fought countless heavy fire-fights with the Taliban, when he was forced to take lives.
“They surrounded our compound and we fought with them for over an hour. We could not get air support and feared they would take our base. I know I took lives in the heat of the battle but it still troubles me.”
Mark was due to go on a second tour of Afghanistan when he began to have nightmares about the atrocities he witnessed in Helmand, and became short-tempered with his girlfriend during the day.
After being discharged from the Army on medical grounds, his life began to unravel. He started smoking skunk cannabis to block out the bad memories, and then lost access to his three children.
“My war did not end with discharge, and Skelmersdale became Afghanistan in my mind. I was trained to kill, not to come home. I began to stay in, and lost my friends. I could not de-compress.”
Mark, who was decorated with a NATO medal and the Queen’s Medal, was on the brink of suicide in the weeks before Christmas. He was also in trouble with the police.
He said: “After contemplating suicide, things began to improve. I now have a brilliant social worker, and have made contact with charities like Combat Stress and Sentry.”
If you are a veteran and need help call Combat Stress on 0800 138 1619. If you are depressed call the Samaritans on 08457909090.