Chapter no 135


SHORTLY AFTER THE GAMES I informed the Palace that I’d be leaving the Army. Elf and I worked on the public announcement; it was hard to get

the wording just right, to explain it to the public, maybe because I was having trouble explaining it to myself. In hindsight I see that it was a hard decision to explain because it wasn’t a decision at all. It was just time.

But time for what, exactly, besides leaving the Army? From now on I’d be something I’d never been: a full-time royal.

How would I even do that?

And was that what I wanted to be?

In a lifetime of existential crises, this was a bugger. Who are you when you can no longer be the thing you’ve always been, the thing you’ve trained to be?

Then one day I thought I glimpsed the answer.

It was a crisp Tuesday, near the Tower of London. I was standing in the middle of the street and suddenly here he came, yomping down the road— young Ben, the soldier with whom I’d flown back from Afghanistan in 2008, the soldier I’d visited and cheered as he climbed a wall with his new

prosthetic leg. Six years after that flight, as promised, he was running a marathon. Not the London marathon, which would’ve been miraculous on its own. He was running his own marathon, along a route he’d designed himself, in the outline of a poppy laid over the city of London.

A staggering thirty-one miles, he’d done the full circuit to raise money and awareness—and heart rates.

I’m in shock, he said on finding me there.

You’re in shock? I said. That makes two of us.

Seeing him out there, still being a soldier, despite no longer being a soldier—that was the answer to the riddle with which I’d been struggling so long.

Question: How do you stop being a soldier, when a soldier is all you’ve ever been or wanted to be?

Answer: You don’t.

Even when you stop being a soldier, you don’t have to stop being a soldier. Ever.

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