“The only thing that got me round was thinking of our Nigel.”
Eighteen months ago Elaine Freeman’s worst nightmare came true when her heroic son was killed while fighting in Afghanistan.
For any mother, the grieving process is a long one.
What Elaine didn’t expect was the feelings of “helplessness” she encountered when Sgt Nigel Coupe, from St Annes, became the latest casualty of war.
But now she is determined to establish a lasting tribute for the father-of-two after completing a punishing triathlon.
Sgt Coupe was one of six soldiers to lose their lives when their armoured fighting vehicle was caught in an explosion in Kandahar province in March 2012.
Elaine, 55, said: “As a mother, I have felt quite helpless in my role.
“In terms of the other soldiers, they had a group of mothers who were next-of-kin to their sons.
“In Nigel’s case, his next-of-kin was his wife, Natalie.
“When the army has any information about Nigel it goes to her, quite rightly.
“Ever since his death I’ve felt like I wanted to do something to honour him.”
Mrs Freeman, who lives in Great Dunmow, near Stansted in Essex, visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Stafford with her family.
The arboretum is a national site of remembrance for fallen soldiers.
While there, Elaine decided to raise money to provide a bench and a tree as a lasting reminder of her son’s sacrifice in the grounds of the memorial.
She added: “We wanted to put up a bench and a tree in Stafford after visiting two months ago.
“The arboretum has a large wall on which soldiers’ names are engraved on.
“It is a beautiful place. I wanted to put the bench there as somewhere for Nigel’s daughters, Ella and Jasmine, to visit in the future.
“It feels like it is the first thing I have been able to do for my son.”
To fund the bench and tree, Elaine decided to run a triathlon in her home town, taking part in the Great Dunmow Triathlon to raise £600.
Nigel’s dad Alan, his sister Linda and Natalie also pledged more than £300 between them.
She added: “There was a great sense of achievement – I’m no exercise bunny and it was very hard.
“I had to swim 400m, cycle 23km and run 5km.
“Had Nigel been alive he would have pushed me and supported me all the way. In fact the only thing that got me round was thinking of our Nigel.
“I have ordered the bench and tree and looking forward to the day went Ella and Jasmine are old enough to understand. “The bench and tree should be in place in 12 weeks time.”
Next month, the family will travel to Oxford for the inquest into the soldiers’ deaths in Afghanistan.