When Gordon Gentle told his friends that he wanted to join the Army, they laughed at him because they thought he was too good-natured to make a soldier.
But, for the 6ft 2in, sports-mad teenager from Pollock in Glasgow, who was nicknamed "Soft" by his friends because of his family name, it was a dream come true when he joined the Royal Highland Fusiliers just three months ago.
He was proud to wear the uniform of a regiment with more than 200 battle honours to its name and he thought of the Army as a way of seeing the world. When his battalion was sent to Iraq, the enthusiastic boy-soldier asked his family not to worry - it was part of the job.He even told his mother that all he was doing was delivering water.
Yesterday morning a letter from the teenager dropped on the doormat of the family home, full of plans for the future and excitement that he was due to come home within two weeks. Sadly, the arrival of the letter came less than 24 hours after his parents and two sisters had been told that he was the latest casualty in a conflict for which they believe he was too young and poorly trained to have been sent.
"I can't believe my only son has gone," said his mother, Rose, yesterday as she was comforted by friends and family. "He shouldn't have been there, none of our boys should be there, Why don't Tony Blair and Geoff Hoon send their own families out to Iraq?
"My son was just a bit of meat to them, just a number. They don't care about him, all they're worried about is the next election. This is not our war, my son has died in their war over oil and they haven't even taken up the trouble of picking up the phone and say they're sorry for our loss."
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