An Afghanistan war widow who felt the MOD expected her to “live in quiet poverty” following her husband’s death in August 2009 has published a heartfelt account of her love and loss.
Captain Mark Hale was the longest-serving British serviceman to be killed during the conflict – leaving behind his wife Brenda and two young daughters.
As a 17-year-old soldier, Mark met Brenda at a disco in her home town of Bangor, Co Down and they soon became inseparable.
“To have him taken from me when I was 40 was very, very hard,” she said as the book, I Married a Soldier, went on general release on August 18.
Mrs Hale – who represented Lagan Valley for the DUP at Stormont between 2011 and 2017 – is donating her share of the royalties to the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity. The ABF ensured the couple’s then seven-year-old daughter could continue with her prep school education, just before the new school year was about to begin in September 2009.
“When the MOD was saying ‘Mark didn’t have a will, everything is going to probate,’ the ABF stepped in and said they would cover the fees so that she would not have to move school.
“That was a huge relief as it felt like me and the two girls were being battered. This is my way of giving something back to a charity that stepped in and helped a seven-year-old girl when her daddy didn’t come home.”
The 49-year-old said she felt the MOD wanted her to keep her chin up “and live in quiet poverty” following her husband’s death.
Mrs Hale said: “Army families live in the shadows, and this is shining a bit of light on army life. It’s about the joy and happiness that comes with the excitement of new postings, but also what happens whenever you hear the line ‘his family has been informed’ and what happens after that.
“The ebb and flow of army life keeps romance fresh, because every time they go away and come back it’s like a honeymoon again.
“Writing the book was like opening a Pandora’s box. I was having to bring up memories from when I was 17 of 18 and I knew those memories, which used to be fond memories, were going to be incredibly painful.
“One of the catalysts for writing the book was that I have so many memories. Time may steal those memories away from me and I wanted the girls to know how this legend of a man loved them beyond measure, and for them to know who their father really was.”
An official book launch event is being organised for Belfast in the coming weeks with a second event planned for the Palace of Westminster next month.
One of the first reviews posted at www.amazon.co.uk describes the book as: “Very emotional. Full of love and at the same time heartbreaking.”
I Married a Soldier – co-written with Rachel Farmer – is available from all major booksellers.