Michael's Dispatches

British Army Buddies: The Tragic Suicides of Kevin Williams and John Paul Finnigan

15 Comments

image001Kevin Williams, left, and John Paul Finnigan were battle buddies in Iraq

They saw a lot of combat.  I was with them for some of it.  Great Soldiers.  Swift and Bold was the moto of their unit, the excellent 2-Rifles.

I do not know who made the photograph of Kevin.  I made the photograph of John after a big firefight in which about 30 enemy were killed. The unit later was accused of war crimes for that firefight but that was a lie.  I witnessed zero war crimes.  Just a big shootout with thousands of bullets coming and going.

The firefight.

The photograph of Kevin is obviously at the palace where they stayed and I stayed with them in Basra. That place got hit every day by mortars.  Just right next to where Kevin is sitting a mortar hit the top of a palm tree one day and exploded.  I was not there but saw the video. 

The place was 24/7 action. Whoever said that war is 99% boredom was not in the wars we were in.

Rest in Peace Kevin and John.

Excerpts from the Guardian article linked below

John Paul Finnigan and Kevin Williams served together on the frontline in Iraq and formed an “undeniable bond”. When they left the army they both struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In March, Williams took his own life at the age of 29. Twelve weeks later Finnigan, 34, from Merseyside, also killed himself.
....
Williams and Finnigan served together with 2nd Battalion The Rifles in Operation Telic 9....On one occasion the pair witnessed three friends being shot by a sniper as they fought insurgents in Basra.

Finnigan was medically discharged in 2010 after suffering hearing loss when a mortar bomb exploded near him.

In a text message at one point he wrote: “I suffer from feelings of rage, anger and at my worst was close to ending my life on several occasions. I’m starting to accept that PTSD will be a part of me for the rest of my life.”

More than 300 veterans and serving personnel attended Finnigan’s funeral this week after the Royal British Legion issued a plea to show solidarity with those who had PTSD. A lone piper led the hearse carrying a white floral wreath spelling out “Daddy” as a plane flew overhead carrying a banner that read “Swift and Bold”, the Rifles’regimental motto.

His sister Nicola, 38, said:“He thought he would die as a soldier and when he came into civilian life he couldn’t cope. He suffered night terrors. Kevin’s death really affected him. They were friends and they were happy together. It was the tipping point.”

Williams became the youngest soldier to be sent to Iraq when he was deployed on his 18th birthday. An inquest heard he killed himself near his home in Basildon, Essex, after the horrors of war left him feeling “pretty much useless”.

Speaking in a documentary before his death, he said: “Returning to civilian life was a big shock. The skills I learned were all combat-based. I was pretty much useless and felt sad all the time.”

His sister, Jennifer, a software manager from Yorkshire, said he was wracked with feelings of horror and guilt. She said: “He told me one story where he saved the lives of five of his comrades but to do that he had to kill someone with a bomb strapped to them. He couldn’t understand how he could have done that and he broke down.”

Steve Nicholls, who served with Finnigan and attended his funeral, said: “He was a strong lad and a really nice guy. But I couldn’t save him and I couldn’t save Kev Williams either.”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jun/17/ex-soldier-killed-himself-weeks-after-friends-suicide

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    joanne witts · 28 days ago
    prayers for them and their families
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Stephen R. Feldman · 28 days ago
    Thanks for writing this.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    lonneke medze · 28 days ago
    respect for them and saddest feelings for their feelings, somehow i hope they'll feel they were loved and respected by a whole lot of "friends" around the globe. Rest in peace you hero's... you will be loved, honored and remembered by all your loved ones and all those people who got to know the pain in your precious hearts.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Cheryl · 28 days ago
    My heart to the family. The mind is a powerful tool and stress in war is tough! Each person does what they are called to do to survive and then I feel it’s a thorn in there flesh, bc memories come back and your in the calmer world (somewhat) no war action and it has to be so hard to dial back. Prayers for all warriors who fight for our Country. God Bless.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Muffy · 28 days ago
    Thanks for writing about this and keeping their memory alive.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Claudia Brown · 28 days ago
    American veterans of brutal wars have enough trouble settling back into a way of life so removed from their combat experiences. But imagine how it is for British soldiers who have returned to a country where the enemy has more freedom of identity than the “home boys” they grew up with — where the society they thought they were protecting has sat by in stony silence while the abuse of women and children that stunned them in foreign lands now has a grip on their neighbours or families, and no one in charge (within the government that sent them to war) seems to care at all. These circumstances may or may not have been a factor in the deaths of these two men, but you can bet their are others among their returned brethren who think of the girls of Rotherham, and the mangled corpse of Lee Rigby, and wonder what it was all for.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Max · 28 days ago
      Well said Claudia. The British government has betrayed her soldiers in every way. Why fight for freedom when Tommy Robinson is locked up?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tim · 28 days ago
    Terribly sad.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Paul Abat · 28 days ago
    I have appreciated your work for many years however when I get one of your letters via email it always comes with a warning by the Thunderbird program indicating "This message may be a scam". Any idea why that happens and if it happens to others it may reduce your exposure.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Colleen · 28 days ago
    This is heartbreaking. Thank you for telling their story.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Marion Stade · 27 days ago
    Is there a way that returning vets from previous years returned to life after other wars? I read a story which included the statement that when the person returned from war he would walk the streets at night often meeting other people that had fought in the war also. Or was the suicide rate just as bad back then? I wish we could help our veterans better. How sad for the friend "Steve Nicholls, who served with Finnigan and attended his funeral, said: “He was a strong lad and a really nice guy. But I couldn’t save him and I couldn’t save Kev Williams either.”
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Phyllis Pajka · 27 days ago
    It is so sad that troops have to go through this when there has to be something out there that could help them. So many of our young men just can't handle the stress and horror they have to go through. We are losing so many after their time is over and they try to adjust to the real world again. Obviously that isn't working so someone has to come up with a solution to help these young men. Keep bringing attention to the situation Michael. Maybe it will get through to someone who can help them.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Karen Sinclair · 27 days ago
    Condolences to both soldiers family and friends from Australia xx
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kris Singleton · 26 days ago
    Another eloquent piece by Michael showing one of the multitude of disastrous events that are triggered when chickenhawks who shirked service start a war of choice, convenience, and profit. The war that killed these two brave young men starved the simultaneous, justified war in Afghanistan of resources and command attention, as Mr Yon has pointed out numerous times.

    Tragic loss of potential greatness for their country and of comfort to their families.

    Be careful as you pull that lever this November.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Barry Sheridan · 26 days ago
    Thank you Michael for remembering these two soldiers who have, as so many do here in Britain, found life very difficult following the end of military service. The loss of camaraderie once in civvy street is major hurdle that even the most caring of familes cannot replace. As you realise combat forges a special bond amongst those who serve, and while there is help for former soldiers too many end up feeling isolated and in despair once this special link is broken. It is tragic and a waste.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dave Cottrell · 26 days ago
    Nothing good comes from a hero dying by his or her own hand. It is a shameful fact about governments of many countries that they abandon their veterans after they finish using them. :sad:

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