This afternoon I had the privilege of visiting Brenda Hale whose husband, Captain Mark Hale, lost his life in Afghanistan on 13 August, along with two colleagues. He died as a result of injuries received while trying to rescue an injured colleague. In a remarkably heroic way, he laid down his life for his friends.
Brenda, Mark and their two girls had found a spiritual home in the warm fellowship at Legacurry Presbyterian Church, where Rev Bobby Liddle is minister. It was wonderful to listen to Brenda as she talked about the vital Christian faith which she and Mark shared, and the way Mark had sought to live out his Christian commitment in a theatre of war and conflict by praying with his colleagues, and had even on occasions deputised for the chaplain. The MOD website carries eloquent tributes to Mark’s outstanding personal qualities. He was a real hero.
One close colleague described him in these terms:
“As a father he was deeply proud of his daughters, as a soldier he was deeply paternal towards his men. His strong and caring nature came from his close faith and relationship with God.
“Having prayed together, he shared both the joys and frustrations of life out here. He wouldn’t ask anyone to do a task he wasn’t willing to do himself, a fact widely acknowledged by all who knew him and, as such, sought to live out the example of Christ. A legend of a man who will be sorely missed by all.”
Lieutenant Colonel Rob Thomson, Commanding Officer, 2 RIFLES Battle Group, said:
“It is almost impossible to know where to start when writing a tribute to a man as brave, huge and full-on as Mark Hale. He oozed quality, humanity and had a tremendous and mischievous sense of fun, which frequently lightened the load of this extraordinary tour.
“He was ‘undentable’ and we in 2 RIFLES have invented this new word in honour of Mark. Nothing fazed him, however demanding the situation, and his ability to absorb work, pressure and other people’s worries was genuinely legendary. That is what ‘undentable’ now means.
“As the Battle Group’s Logistics Officer, Mark has been supreme on this complex, intense and dangerous tour. He sorted out big issues easily and with no fuss, and he dealt with a host of annoying, CO [Commanding Officer] type questions of detail with enviable patience.
“I knew when a task had his name ascribed to it that that task was as good as done already. I kept giving him more work and he kept on delivering. He has been superb counsel to me and, much more importantly, to countless Riflemen who have hunted him out for a chat.
“On the ground he breathed courage into the platoons he served alongside. Mark was an outstanding Rifleman – fiercely intelligent, always creating novel options, often well outside his logistic lane, and committed like no other.
“It is entirely typical of this man that he died whilst helping to evacuate wounded soldiers. Mark understood the importance and the urgency of the work in this place in spades – one could see that from the amount he crammed into each day.
“But he was more than just an extraordinary professional, he was a truly great man, a devoted husband and an adored father. He had a strong Christian faith, even standing in as the padre for one of our church services here in Sangin.
“Mark wasn’t a fifth gear man, he was a sixth gear merchant. Us mortals could rarely keep up. When we rowed on ergo machines from Sangin to Pegasus Bridge in April, May and June to raise money for wounded soldiers, he led the way; on one inhuman session he rowed 42,000 metres. To him, it was just another challenge but it gives you a feel for the mark of the man.
“The hole he has left in our lives is enormous but we know that our grief is nothing compared to what his dear, beloved family is going through.
“But this should be some comfort. Mark Hale, a man of true Christian faith, died doing a job he loved and was embarked on a mission that has national levels of importance and urgency. Our hearts go out to his family – we are holding them very close in our prayers.
“Mark, I promise you that your baton here has not been dropped – it is held high.”