When soldiers are sent off to war, it can have a devastating affect on the loved ones they leave behind.
One mum has turned to her love of poetry to help her through her son’s absence as he fought in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
And now Eleanor Broaders’ book, Run Fast, Keep Low, has been praised by other relatives of serving and injured soldiers for helping them through painful times, and has been accepted into the reference library at the Imperial War Museum, London.
Eleanor’s son, Kevin, was called for his first tour of duty, to Iraq, with 2 Rifles just three weeks after completing his training, aged 18, in 2007.
Although tough for Eleanor to think about at the time, ignorance about what Rifleman Kevin was getting up to was bliss.
Her poetry – her coping mechanism – alluded to her pride for her son, but soon undertones of fear and loss appeared in the verses.
She said: “It was a nerve-wracking time. You’d see the news, and you’d know the possibility of being killed or injured.
“Any parent of a child at war knows the last thing they think when they go to sleep at night is a prayer their child lives through the night, and when they wake up they pray their child will live through the day.”
After three months, Kevin returned home and briefed Eleanor, of Ansdell, of his duties. The following year he was called to Kosovo, and in 2009 he was called to a tour in Afghanistan.
Eleanor said: “When he was in Iraq I had no idea what he was going through. In Afghanistan I knew because of what he’d told me after Iraq and it was really heightened for me then.”
And her fears were realised with a telephone call at 7.30am one day, when Kevin told his mum he was on his way to hospital.
He had suffered a seizure, possibly caused by lack of sleep, and which would later leave him with Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME) and fibromyalgia, with cognitive disfunction and short-term memory loss. Kevin, now 25, was medically discharged from the Army.
Eleanor said: “He is a bit better now, but it’s the lack of energy that bothers him.
“He came back to me and he was alive – he can live out his life, but really he’s been robbed in a sense as his fitness has gone. What happened has changed his whole life, and his family’s life.”
Since Kevin returned home, Eleanor has compiled her poetry into a self-published book.
“There is a reason, a story behind every poem,” she said.
“They helped me at a time when I had nobody to talk to about the things that were on my mind. Wives and girlfriends are on the barracks with the support they need, but the mothers are at home dealing with their thoughts and feelings. That’s why I wrote them down.”
It was during a chance visit to the Imperial War Museum in Manchester that Eleanor got talking about her book to a member of staff.
It has now been accepted into the London museum.
Eleanor added: “I am really chuffed. The book is the story of a mum and how war affects families when sometimes the families get forgotten about.”
Run Fast, Keep Low, is also on sale at Amazon, with proceeds going to the SSAFA’s Families of Injured Service Personnel (FISP) and Help 4 Heroes’ Band of Sisters.
A mum’s poem: Where Daisy Chains Lie
They marched khaki clad
Through the thronged streets.
Applause rippled in waves
As they strode along
High St, Road and Avenue,
Remembering other roads
As familiar now as these.
Wishtan, Nad e Ali Musa Qul’ah
In whose parched soil,
Strands of daisy chains
Lay buried under the dirt
To trip the unwary walker.
Where the sniper, hid,
With the farmer in the field
And best mess dress
Meant Kevlar and Osprey.
They marched to show their respects
To honour friendships
Grown as mists, solid as iron.
To remember others of their breed,
Lying peacefully in satin lined oak,
Or in hospital induced comas.
Dreaming Technicolor dreams
Of crawling through dank ditches
On bloodied knees.
Only to wake, as
Jigsaw men, crafted
From muscle and bone and sinew.
Or as Meccano men, riveted
From nut and bolt and steel.
They marched to show their respects
Not as heroes, but ordinary men
Who had chosen a life of adventure
And never bemoaned their fate.
Sons and husbands and fathers,
Writing their own histories.
Soldiers at eighteen
Veterans at twenty two.