Although Dan Jarvis is MP for Barnsley Central and Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, this is not a book about politics. He used to be a soldier, and though parts of this book are about soldiering, mostly it is about life, and death – about tough times and how to get through them.
The first challenge was leading soldiers under the most demanding conditions. I have used the time since I returned from the most testing part of my Army service in southern Afghanistan to reflect on what happened in Helmand. To try and make some sense of it all. They really were the best and the worst of times: hard as these experiences were, in one sense, I was reasonably well prepared for it by years of training at Sandhurst and with my regiment, and by many other deployments overseas. But it came at a tough time for my family and I. My wife Caroline had been treated for cancer and a set of circumstances dictated that I arrived in Afghanistan woefully underprepared for the test I was to face.
The second challenge was the trauma that comes from coping with a bereavement. Based on my experiences I have reflected long and hard about how grief can consume you when a loved one is tragically lost. About how you have to come to terms with losing your partner and get on with living your life.
In this book I talk about my early years in the Army, about meeting Caroline and our life together. I describe what happened to us as a family, the horrors I faced in Afghanistan, followed by the pain of bereavement and how somehow, I made it through to the other side. The account I give is how it was. No fluff. No varnish, the good, the bad and the very ugly – the highs and the lows. Some of it uncomfortable, some of it some painful, but all of it just as it was.
I want to share what I’ve learned about endurance, about the power of the human spirit, about fortitude, resilience and survival. About never ever giving up, whatever comes your way, and about how to find ways to cope with the pressure.