My name is John Dale I am 41 years of age, at the age of 19 I pledged my future to Queen and Country. It was the best thing I ever did, if I had to live my life again I wouldn’t change a single thing.

I travelled the world, Germany, Belize, America, Several operational tours of Northern Ireland, Op tour of Sierra Leonne and what was to be life changing tours of Iraq including the invasion in 2003.

At the age of 33 I was a sergeant of an Infantry Platoon, in what was The 1st Battalion The Light Infantry. In February 2003 we were given the nod that we would be a part of the invasion force for the second Iraq war.

On the 27th of March 2003 my platoon was held up just out side the town of Azubayher. My platoon was given orders that we would be assaulting an enemy occupied building in the town. We were to be lead in by tanks and they would identify the building by firing at it. My platoon was then to assault the building, which we did in a text book assault.

My job at the time was to deal with casualties both friendly and enemy, POWs ect. On the building having been cleared, it became apparent why there had been no resistance. It turned out it was just a normal Iraqi Family. They were all barricaded in one room. We had been given duff intelligence! But I was responsible for dealing with the situation, there was dead women, dead children, men of different ages. It was my Birthday one that I would remember for a long time. This was war and bad things happen, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

We were expected to carry on as Soldiers do, come may time we were told we were to be one of the first units out of Iraq, because we were coming back in the November.

No time to dwell on things back into training for deployment again. In November we deployed again this time for 7 months. 3 soldiers under my command were blown up. But we had no fatalities.

In 2006 we deployed again, every day for 7 month we received mortar fire on the camp.

In between tours my marriage had broke down I was drinking lots. I was having regular nightmares, the same nightmare, the house in Azubayer, I could see it in clear detail. I was also seeing reruns of it as clear as a DVD in my head, this re-runs would appear at random. I could even smell cordite, dust, and petrol. All which were associated to that day. I didn’t think anything of it I was a soldier, soldiers don’t go sick. Especially not soldiers of my rank we lead by example.

However on my 3rd tour of Iraq in 2006 my friends urged me to speak to a Quack. So I did, he mentioned PTSD, I didn’t have s clue what he was on about. Years later I wad privy to the Medical report he had written.

It advised to my superiors that I was to be taken out of theatre and I was to receive treatment as soon as I got back to Germany.
This of course never happened I spent the full 7 months out on tour.

After that tour I was posted to the Operational Training and Advisory Group (OPTAG) training troops deploying on operations to Iraq and Afghanistan.

I was deployed Regularly to theatre for ten day periods. To ensure that we were current and up to date with the drill we were teaching.
In June 2008 I was promoted to warrant officer, I was told I had to return to my unit in Germany, where we were deploying back out to Iraq. By this stage 5 years after my initial trauma it had come apparent to me I couldn’t do this anymore.

I signed off, didn’t care I would lose my pension didn’t care I had just been promoted. I just new I couldn’t do it any more.
I told relatives of my plans and they all went mental, saying I wad stupid, how I only had a few years left to do. But they didn’t know what I’d been through, they didn’t know every time I wore my dress uniform I looked down and saw a medal, a medal that didn’t say hero, it said murderer!!

With all this pressure I withdrew my signing off papers and went out to Germany. As soon as I got there we went on leave.
All that kept going round in my head was this dilemma, these nightmares, these flash backs. In the end I saw no way out. In the early hours I took a rope and tried to hang myself.

Next thing I was been sectioned, stuck in the priory, Military Psychologists Civi Psychologist trying to explain things to me.
I didn’t care I wanted a cure and I wanted it now. It didn’t happen, I ended up in various mental institutes, none of which helped, I rebelled against the Military felt let down. In Sept 2009 I was discharged from the Army. However the treatment I was getting at a Hospital in Basingstoke was stopped as soon as the results of my Medical board were made apparent. This was in the March of 2009.

Having been let down by the Military I had promised my parents I would not try to take my own life again, as I had seen the effect it had had on my elderly mother. She had gone from a healthy 9 stone down to a frail 6 stone women.

However in november 2009 me and my current partner had an argument, my moods were up and down the slightest thing upset me. Id lost count of how many times I had left and travelled to my parents in Yorkshire from Kent just because of a dirty cup or an un made bed. This time though I saw a way out, my partner phone the police told them I was taking her car.

The police arrived and I was detained, they took me to the police station, I was fuming, I told them I had tried to kill my partner, I told them if they released me I would go back and kill her this was my way out,

No one had to look after me any more no one had to baby sit me, worry about where I was going or what I was doing.
I’d been in worse places than prison and to be honest since 27th March 2003 although there wasn’t a cell I’d been imprisoned in my head for the past 6 years.

I spent 5 months on remand until I was released with out charge thanks to letters from colleagues I had worked with.

This was my wake up call!

Whilst in prison my partner along with a colleague had enlisted me on the Talking2minds change programme.
I initially was very negative, how could these people cure me where everyone else had failed.

However within 3 days my nightmares where stopped, my flashbacks had ended, I could laugh I could joke I felt life was worth living again. These amazing people had allowed me to live my life again. They had made me realise that I was more in control of my mind than I had ever realised. I’d allowed this horrible event in 2003 to control my life, to cloud all the good things i had done and achieved in my life. I did the change course in 2010 it’s now a year on since I attended it. I have had good and bad days, but don’t we all, the difference is now that thanks to Talking2minds I don’t let these bad days run my life.
Tomorrow is another day!

I could quite easily of wrote this testimonial a week after the change programme however if you take morphine for a broken leg you don’t feel the pain for the morphine, you will never know if the leg is healed until you’ve give the morphine time to work.

I can tell you a year on from the change programme that I’m still going strong, I’m in control of my life. I am truly grateful to the amazing people of talking2minds for giving me the strength to take back control of my life.

Regards John Dale
Former Warrant Officer
5 Rifles