by Florian Flade
As Danny Cross left Afghanistan, the 19-year old British soldier got news two of his close friends had died, killed on the battlefield. With images of war, the sound of bullets and mortars, carved into his mind, Private Cross ended his first duty tour in Southern Afghanistan and went back home to the UK.
Cross is from Stockport, southeast of Manchester. He joined the army when he was 16, underwent military training in Africa before being send to the Afghanistan-War. During his stay in the war zones, Cross experienced almost daily enemy contact, rockets and mortars fired at him and survived some “near misses”.
Back in Britain Danny Cross was told his second tour in Afghanistan was due and he would be return to the war that had killed several of his friends and comrades. Faced with the next stay for months in dangerous Afghanistan, the young soldier thought about opportunities to avoid returning to the war. His plan seemed effective, yet brutal and dangerous. Scared by the idea of serving for a second time in Afghanistan, Private Cross asked a friend to drive over his leg and thereby injure him in a way that would lead to him not being deployed to the war again.
The teenage soldier sat on a road and his friend did drive over the leg with a car, smashing it and causing significant harm. A military doctor who examined Cross declared the 19-year old Briton unfit for another round of fighting in Afghanistan. During the examination, the soldier confessed to the doctor, that his injured leg was the result of a desperate attempt of self-harm with the help of a friend. Later he also told his girlfriend and mother about the fake accident.
Charged with malingering a court sentenced Cross to 18-months in military prison but after a Appeal Court in London read a psychiatric report last week the sentenced was turned into 12-month community order. A full psychiatric analysis said Danny Cross, who is now dismissed from the military, had suffered psychological effects originating in his experience in Afghanistan, including a anxiety disorder, adjustment disorder and trauma.
“I didn’t ever want to disrespect the Army I’m just glad that its over and I’m glad to be back with my family”, Private Cross said after last week´s hearings in London. His lawyer stated, that the case of the soldier was a prime example of what war does to young men on a psychological level: “We hear a lot about the tragic combat deaths and major casualties, but nothing of the psychological problems suffered by men who deploy and then return apparently successfully.”
2010 was the deadliest year for NATO troops in Afghanistan since the the beginning of the war in 2001. More than 700 NATO soldiers, including 100 british servicemen died in Afghanistan this year.