With it being the time to remember our servicemen we invited former Rifleman and Afghanistan Veteran turned Rugby Player Craig Monaghan for a chat.
I guess as you can imagine its a very strange time of the year to be a Afghanistan veteran or to have served in any conflict for that matter. It’s a little bit mad to be a involved in the game now at this capacity when a few years ago I was clean shaven covered in dust and it was utter chaos everywhere we went, and to be fair the transition from the army to now is a whirl wind and its been a very long road with more pot holes in it than you could imagine, but all that a side I can’t even begin to express the support in the Rugby world for me and all the other hundreds of veterans in the game, its crazy because Rugby is massive in the military and if you havebeen in you have 100% been to a game or crossed paths with it at some point, but sadly many players who are 50 times better than me get lost when they leave the military and never play again because they just don’t know how to get involved on the outside, so yeah unfortunately there’s a huge haemorrhage of amazing talent being missed by clubs up and down the country there which is a shame, now I know obviously guys like myself, Rocco and a few of the girls have managed but we are a simple handful in a military with over 80,000 people in, Maybe they need a sports liaison or something between the RFU and the military, I know a guy! haha.
But more importantly I think at this time of year that everybody involved with rugby the fans, players and management should remember those who paid the ultimate price and those who returned with life changing injuries. It’s a time the country gets to openly be thankful for the service the men and women do and not be judged for; especially for me it’s a special but strange time, a time where I take further reflection on everything that happened, not that I don’t remember the other weeks in the year as I do, them days in Afghanistan are so etched in my memory at times I wish I could forget the whole thing, but everything I do now in my civilian life if you can call it that, I try to do in remembrance of those who didn’t come home, to make them proud and to inspire those who were hurt out there or with hidden injuries that we can still have a life after the war.
In 2009 it was a sad year in terms of losses and injuries for us as it was happening more than you could imagine, so certainly November knocks me for six in terms of mentality I mean I think a lot more about those days in Afghanistan when we were patrolling in the mid-day heat through fields and irrigation ditches, the smells, the surroundings and even the people. But I don’t always use this time to remember the bad times despite there being a lot of them but I reflect on the good times that we had out there, The laughs and pranks basically the banter on a whole that we had was ruthless at times but it was needed and would certainly keep you going when you were down or tired a lot like rugby teams during pre-season when your hanging out trudging up hills someone will do something and it makes it that little easier to get through haha!.
Its crazy though to think I can almost remember everything from Afghanistan but then I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning which for the record was probably healthy, I think what a lot of people forget or don’t see about those who served whether it be from the world wars to Afghanistan we are the same, and on remembrance Sunday you see that amongst the ranks of old and current soldiers there is a mutual respect, a drive amongst everybody stood there but more so there is one thing there more mutual than anything, but that same one thing that is there is something I know I wish was never there and that is we have all experienced the brutality of war and the losses of our brothers in arms and that is something we never talk about but acknowledge upon looking at one another, and we feel every beat of the national anthem whether its a rugby game or remembrance parade its pretty heart wrenching and a time where it will bring the most tears you have ever seen come out of a me.
Now I remember speaking to this WW2 vet a few months back at a coffee morning and it was pretty mad, we got talking about sport he was saying how he hated football but had played Rugby so obviously like any one you ask “ohh when? play for anyone?” and he literally responded yeah it was for my regiment whilst we was in Normandy we were playing rugby against one another when a mortar landed and I never played rugby again. For me that was crazy to hear we had done the exact same thing on a heli-pad in Sangin 100% surrounded by hostile ground we played rugby luckily though nothing bad happened in terms of mortars or anything but that situation happened it’s crazy to think two wars, years apart, same things happen it’s pretty crazy.
So yeah I think I have waffled on to much now, but I just want to say life for serviceman this time of the year its not easy but we are all greatful for the support and how the rugby world puts us all in there thoughts and although leaving the army deaf and with severe PTSD its not been to bad trying to rebuild my life and I am every grateful for what the rugby world has done for me, if you ask anyone close to me if it want for rugby there is a very good chance I would not be hear today and to be a soldier who has been injured in Afghanistan which ended his career to now being able to represent my country in a different way playing for England Deaf Rugby its such a surreal feeling and I hope more soldiers make the move across from military rugby into civilian rugby and I know there are many out there who suffer similar to me and you need to know that they is a place in sport for you still, and no matter how hard life is with the demons in our heads it gets a little easier as the time passes.
Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read this and I look forward to hearing everyones feedback.
Hopefully I will see you all back on here soon with something more Rugby less military.
Written By: Craig Monaghan- (England Deaf Rugby)