David Taylor was born in nineteen-seventy, in the North-East of England to parents Alice, and Tommy. He has two younger sisters, Molly and Sarah, who are two and four years younger than him.
He did very well at school and surprised his parents when he announced that despite getting four exceptionally good A-levels, he wanted to enlist in the Army. His father understood but his mother struggled with his decision. David’s dad’s father, his grand-dad, had served in the Army during the Second World War, but his mother was not at all happy about his decision.
She eventually came around but was never comfortable with him serving in hostile environments, and it only got worse once he saw action in Kosovo, and Iraq, before he went to Afghanistan.
He and girlfriend Linda had met at school and after an on-off-on again relationship, they eventually married in nineteen-ninety-two and had their first daughter, Amy a year later, and their second, Alice, two years after that. He was a loving father, a good husband and an excellent soldier. He had joined the Parachute regiment and it was after he toured Kosovo that he decided to try out for the special-services outfit, the Pathfinders.
Selection for the Pathfinders was brutal, and the drop-out rate was enormous. But although it was exhausting and traumatic at times, he got through it and when he was told that he had passed, it was the proudest moment of his Army career. As a ‘special-force’, the Pathfinders were in a unique section of the armed forces. Whereas the SAS and SBS were trained more for anti-terrorist and anti-insurgency roles, the Pathfinders were trained almost exclusively for deep-insertion behind enemy lines for reconnaissance, rescue, capture, sabotage and kill missions.
It was whilst executing one of these roles that he sustained his injuries that would lead to his commendation and his medical discharge from the army.
David returned from Afghanistan and spent six months recuperating at the British Army’s rehabilitation centre at Headley Court in Surrey. During which time, he spent hours doing physiotherapy every day, combined with counselling sessions that dealt with the mental trauma of his injuries. He was also diagnosed with PTSD during his stay. He progressed well and there were high hopes for him when he returned home full-time to his wife and two teenage children.
Things deteriorated almost as soon as he got home. His wife had struggled to cope with his injuries, and the massive changes in their lives that came with the situation. It wasn’t just the physical injuries. It was his mental state. His initial euphoria of being home, amongst his family soon wore off as he realised the enormity of his situation.
He had always been fit and strong, he had to be in his unit. He was a sportsman, he was always active. But getting used to his new prosthetic legs, and being in a wheelchair when his stumps became too sore rapidly depressed him. He began to drink, a little at first but it soon became a huge problem for him and his family.
He was alone in the house all day, his children were at school and his wife worked, so his drinking steadily got worse. As did his nightmares. His PTSD also seemed to get worse, after making some good progress at Headley Court. He began to argue with his wife. He became snappy and irritable, constantly shouting at anyone in the vicinity, and at himself.
His relationship with Linda steadily deteriorated. They hadn’t made love for nearly six months after he had returned home, and the problem was mostly his. He felt ashamed and embarrassed by his condition. He hated anyone to see his stumps, even his wife. Linda didn’t care about that, she loved him, but he gradually made it harder and harder for her to do so.
A year after he lost his legs his drinking was a serious problem. He was ill-tempered most of the time, and he had started to take it out on his girls. Never physical, but he would regularly lose control and yell at them. He would get so angry that they would get scared. The end, for him and Linda, came with a whimper and not a blazing row.
He had just come around after a day spent drinking when she came home from work. The girls were in their room doing homework and staying out of his way. When Linda walked into the house it was a mess. He was meant to have made the girls tea but he had been sleeping, so the girls stayed in their room. Linda sorted them out and carried on as if everything was normal.
When the girls went to bed she sat in the lounge with him and looked at him.
“We need to talk David.”
He looked at her, his head was throbbing, but he knew what was coming. He’d been expecting it for months now. Part of him wanted it. He knew that he was ruining their lives, but he felt helpless. He also knew that he was hurting them all, and he had never wanted that.
She poured out her heart to him. He listened and watched as she cried as she told him that she loved him so much, but she just couldn’t take it any more. She told him that the girls had never stopped loving him, but all they got back was pain and anger, and they didn’t deserve that. And she was right. She begged him to get help, she said that he was headed for destruction, and she didn’t want that.
“I don’t want our girls to have to come to your funeral David. Not for a long, long time.”
In the end, she held his hand, looked into his eyes and told him that she was leaving him, and taking the girls with her. He just stared at her. He said nothing. She looked at him.
“Did you hear me, David?”
He nodded slowly.
“Yes, love. I heard you. And you are right. But it is me who should go.”
She broke down and he held her as she sobbed. He stroked her back as she broke her heart and they sat there for what seemed like an eternity and then he sat upright.
“Okay, Linda. I’ll go tonight.”
She said that he didn’t have to but he knew that if he didn’t, it would be even harder the next day. Whilst he booked a room in a local hotel she packed him a small bag with enough clothes for a few days. When the taxi arrived she stood at the front door as he made his way towards her.
They hugged. He stroked his fingers through her hair and looked into her eyes.
“I’m sorry love. I love you so much, but this is the right thing to do. For you and the girls. I hope that they will forgive me one day.”
He looked up the stairs towards the girl’s bedroom, and then he slowly turned away and walked out of the house for the last time. She had tears in her eyes as she walked him to the cab, and as she waved him off she sobbed before turning and walking back into the house.