Pictures: May 22nd – Afghanistan – David visits British Troops
David Beckham today paid tribute to fallen British soldiers during his morale-boosting visit to Afghanistan. The former England captain stood silently with his head bowed before the Camp Bastion memorial dedicated to those who have given their lives for their country as a Union flag flew at half mast. During a trip which he described as ‘humbling’ and ‘emotional’, the footballer took time to read the full names engraved on brass plaques of members of the UK Armed Forces who have fallen in service.
During a memorial on the second day of his trip to Helmand Province, the 35-year-old paid his respects and told the soldiers it had been ‘one of my best experiences of my whole life, to actually be here, to see first hand what you all go through. ‘You have to leave your families, your friends, your loved ones, your kids, that must be hard.’ He also spoke of his admiration for the comradeship among the troops.
He said: ‘I’ve represented my country on the field, and I’ve got great team mates and great friends, but every now and again I can let my team mates down on the field. You out here, you have to trust your friends, trust the people that you are next to, and your team mates, you don’t get another chance. I have huge admiration for everything that you do, everything that you believe in, and everything that you are doing for our country; it’s a real honour for me to be here.’ The LA Galaxy player also gave a radio interview with the British Forces Broadcasting Service, and said he had wanted to visit troops in Afghanistan for a number of years and it was a ‘privilege’ to finally do so.
He said: ‘I’ve never met so many patriotic people in my life. To shake hands, hear their stories and hear how much they are missing their families… it’s very emotional. ‘They are fighting, putting their lives on the line, it’s really something they are so passionate about, it’s humbling.’ Beckham also gave a glimpse into his own family life in Los Angeles with his wife Victoria and three sporty sons Brooklyn, 11, Romeo, seven and Cruz, five.
He joked living in the sun-soaked city was ‘terrible’.
He also revealed he stored his wife’s number in his phone under her Spice Girl nickname ‘Posh’. And, although the soldiers may have guessed from his outings in a sarong, he admitted that he is in touch with his feminine side and added that he enjoyed romantic comedies. ‘I am a bit of a chick flick person, I get very emotional. I was on a flight the other day from Los Angeles to London, watching the film I was tearing up.’
Despite poor DIY skills, he said cooking was a ‘real passion’ and he could clean and iron around the house.He added his sons were ‘all showing a little bit of promise’ with their footballing skills, but he would support them in whichever field they chose to pursue.He also described the lengths the family sometimes went to, to escape the paparazzi glare, revealing he and his sons recently crawled ‘proper military style’ along a wall to evade attention.
And Beckham backed England to win the World Cup, stating: ‘I really believe they have got a chance.’
Earlier today the footballer met senior officers during breakfast, including Deputy National Contingency Commander of British Forces, Brigadier Angus Fay, who said: ‘I think it’s been fantastic for the British forces that he has shown so much interest in the work we are doing. He is such an iconic figure to everyone of all ages and background. His effect on the morale has been phenomenal and we are very grateful for his commitment to us Morale is through the roof – the whole place is buzzing.’
He told BFBS: British Forces News: ‘To see the morale of the troops is really incredible. It first kind of hit me on the way over when we were on the military plane flying in to Afghanistan. ‘You can see the faces, you can see obviously they know they are leaving their families, but they’re so focused and they’ve got this look in their eyes that they’re just so confident and just ready.
‘That really is an unbelievable sight to see, and you feel it as well.’
Beckham started his day on Saturday with full English breakfast in the cookhouse before taking part in a question and answer session with troops, signing autographs and visiting the camp’s hospital.
Squadron Leader Sarah Charters, who runs the emergency unit at the hospital, told him about the work they do. She said: “A visit like this means a lot to everyone here.” ‘It is an absolute honour to work in an environment like this where I know I am contributing to help save lives and David’s visit reminds everyone at home of what we actually do here.’
Beckham also received a lesson in weapon handling from Craftsman Bob Floy, from Doncaster, who showed him how to use different weapons including a heavy machine gun.
With temperatures in the camp reaching 45C (113F), the star then visited the HQ of 40 Commando where he joined senior officers cooling off their feet in a paddling pool. He also visited 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles and took part in a penalty challenge with them, and scored with his only attempt. He said: ‘Just yesterday one of the troops was killed, and you feel it and you see the flags at half-mast and you feel the tension there. It really is, like I said, amazing to be around but you feel the love from everybody.
‘It just really is scary work. These guys are the bravest people that I’ve ever met and it really is, it truly is, an honour to be here.’