From the op Banner photo group: Can I ask? Have you ever had to walk up to a sand bunker to load your rifle with live rounds, before leaving the safety of your home? Have you ever felt sick to the pit of your stomach at the anticipation of sprinting out of your front door, for fear of taking enemy fire? Have you strapped on a shoulder holster to carry a loaded pistol under your tweed jacket, to go into to town? Have you ever systematically checked the wheel arches and under your car, six times a day, to search for improvised explosive devices? Have you had one of your family murdered and been consumed by grief, but unable to grieve, take bereavement leave, or attend the funeral, because you have to pull yourself together, pick up your rifle, lead your men and go out on patrol, day after day? Have you ever taken a ride in a helicopter, because going by vehicle was simply too risky? Have you ever climbed into a Transit van with a Adidas bag containing a radio, a loaded sub machine gun and spare ammunition? Have you ever dived for cover in a shop doorway when a car backfired? Have you ever held up a Perspex shield to fend off bricks and petrol bombs in a hostile riot? Have you ever heard the crack and thump of bullets whipping past you? Have you ever had to think about where those bullets are coming from, work out whether there is more than one gunman, think about your seven colleagues and where they are, assimilate all that information in a split second, give orders and anticipate your next move, all in the blink of an eye? Have you ever leveled your rifle sights onto a potential target, held your breath and paused? This was the day to day reality of being a soldier in Northern Ireland. Don’t criticize me or my brothers in arms, Until you’ve walked a thousand miles in my boots.