Soldiers get killed in wars – we all know that and accept it. Sometimes, they die because other people make mistakes, or make bad decisions. That we can also accept. Officers and NCOs have to take decisions and what makes their jobs so very different is that if they get it wrong, sometimes people die.
In those cases, it is tragic but it is still part of war. In many cases, all it needs is for someone to take responsibility, admit they got it wrong and say they're sorry.
But the Army isn't like that. To outsiders - and especially the relatives of soldiers who have been killed – everyone in the military is perfect. Nobody makes mistakes. Every death is an "accident" or "unavoidable". And if you ask questions, it is you who are wrong, you who are made to feel guilty and you who are made to feel you have to apologise for doubting what you are told.
That is how I've been made to feel about the death of my son, which for me is bad enough, but so many relatives have been through the same thing, and it goes on to this day. It will keep happening until the Army accepts that relatives are human beings as well, and are entitled to get the truth, and the whole truth about how their loved ones died.
What makes this especially topical is the recent inquest of Michael Tench (pictured), the youngest soldier to die in Iraq, reported in the Northern Echo.
From this, we found out that the original information given to Michael's mother, Janice Murray, was completely wrong. And in an experience that completely matches mine, she complained that, "No one from the Army could be truthful regarding the injuries my son sustained or exactly his cause of death."
When my son Phillip was killed in Iraq, the notifying officer told us that Phillip had been killed instantly. But he was lying. Two days later, we found out from Sky News that he had been badly injured but had died of his injuries at the roadside. Only when we checked back with the Army were we told that this was true.
It is only natural then that we wanted to know what my son's injuries were, but here I hit a brick wall. The Army could not, or would not tell me. It took four months to get some details, when I finally received a report. This was all I was to get prior to the inquest, and we only obtained this after I went on the local television station and asked them to help.
In that report, it stated that Phillip had difficulty breathing before he died so, I was not any better informed. Then I heard, to my horror from another soldier that Phillip had been screaming for me at the side of the road. Imagine the nightmares that gave us and it was not until the inquest in January of this year that we finally leaned the truth and the nightmares stopped.
Phillip had not been screaming. He had injuries to his throat and small blast injuries which had peppered his body. We also learned that a protective neck collar was sitting in the stores. This would more than likely have saved Phillip's life and other soldiers who have been killed with the same injury. We asked about the collars but the Army response was that Phillip would not have been able to drive with this collar on. Yet it seems standard issue for the American troops.
But, to our outrage, we discovered that the report on Phillip's inquest file had been completed on the 31st August 2005. We had been made to wait 18 months for the Inquest and only then were we allowed to learn what the Army had known all that time.
What also shook us to the core were other details in the report. We knew from Phillip, who had been home on leave only weeks before he died, that he and the other lads were worried about the Snatch Land Rovers and the lack of protection. And we also knew from him that there were the heavier, Warrior armoured vehicles at his base in al Amarah.
But, from the Army report, we found out that, "although Warriors were sometimes used", they were "recognised as antagonising the local population". Therefore, Phillip and the other two soldiers who died with him were sent into a dangerous areas of the town, in poorly protected vehicles, simply not to "antagonise" the local population.
It beggars belief that our son died because they didn't want to upset or wake the locals at night. I am sure the bomb did this. The safety of our soldiers should come first before the "hearts and minds" of the local people.
What is more, although we had the Inquest (from which we learned very little), there was never a Board of Inquiry regarding Phillips death. We asked why this was and received a letter telling us that they were the experts and nothing could have been done to prevent the "accident". So according to the British Army three soldiers killed by a terrorist bomb is an accident. Does this mean that all terrorist bombs are accidents?
We have also been told that no investigation will ever take place into the deaths of three soldiers that night. When they did try to investigate at the scene they were told that it was extremely dangerous and they had 20 minutes to get it done. We have all seen on the television the police at crime scenes when they investigate for days to try and piece together all the evidence. Yet 20 minutes is sufficient for three soldiers deaths. So, sadly, the people that murdered our sons will never be caught.
By contrast, our government seems only to pleased to try and convict our soldiers of any offence and spend millions of pounds in doing so. I would have the utmost respect for any MP that would go to Iraq and go out on routine patrols in a Snatch Land Rover and see if they felt they were amply protected. Surely if these vehicles are good enough for our soldiers they are good enough for visiting MPs.
Try and imagine what our soldiers suffer when they go out on patrol. Next time you have a car journey of say two hours or more think that the terrorist know who you are because you wear uniforms. They don't wear them, so you don't know where they are or who they are.
You are driving along knowing that any person you see could be a terrorist waiting to kill. It could be the next junction, roundabout, traffic lights that they are waiting. They have planted roadside bombs but you do not know where. If you are unlucky, you will pass that spot. No wonder so many soldiers come home with post traumatic stress.
This is what Phillip had to deal with, and he was unlucky. But he was not only a soldier. He was also our son, and we have produced this tribute for him. To the Army, though, it seems he was just a number, and we are a nuisance. They must learn that they are dealing with human beings.