Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Duty Calls on Nicky's BIG Day

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Duty Calls on Nicky's BIG Day

Article excerpt

Byline: By Barbara Argument

For mum Julie Mitchell, this weekend's Remembrance services will be personal and poignant like never before.

Her tank driver son, Nicky, is in Iraq with his regiment, the Royal Dragoons.

And tomorrow is his 21st birthday.

Heartbreakingly he wasn't home in Middlesbrough for his landmark 18th either.

Then Nicky was helping keep the peace in Bosnia's post-war danger zone.

Every slice of news about our lads in Iraq, hits home hard with Julie, Dave, his step-dad who's brought him up since he was three; sister, Lucy, aged 13, and Alex, eight, whose big brother is his own special hero.

"For Nicky's Passing-Out parade, Alex wore a soldier's camouflage uniform from Toys R Us and carried a plastic gun," smiles Julie.

"He tells everyone he wants to be a soldier too."

Every tragic incident with British or American troops in Iraq brings its own instant punch of fear for Julie.

Is it her son? Will he come home safely?

She and the family who live in Graygarth Road, Berwick Hills, hoped Nicky would be home on leave to down a celebration lager or two for his birthday.

"With all the trouble out there and the deaths, he won't be home now," says Julie.

Instead, Nicky will be out patrolling the streets of the southern port of Az Zubayr, trying to win the hearts and minds of civilians. And dodging bullets.

Every news flash brings the stuff of Julie's worst nightmares.

But she takes the disappointment at not being with Nicky on his birthday bravely and with resignation.

"It's his job, he has to be there," she says.

Julie's face softens with pride as she talks about her super-fit, strapping soldier of a son and the day he was born at Parkside Hospital.

"He was premature and weighed only 2lb 4oz," she says. "We didn't think he would survive."

A long 21 years later, the very same fear has returned to haunt.

Nicky has grandad Billy's, second world war medals. …

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