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I Married a Soldier


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How one woman took on the Ministry of Defense after her husband Mark was killed in action.

Table of Contents

Co n t e n t s
Acknowledgments 8
Acknowledgments from Rachel Farmer 9
Foreword 11
Chapter 1: July 2009... a time to rest 15
Chapter 2: February 1985: Northern Ireland... a time to dance 23
Chapter 3: July 1987: Bournemouth... a time to love 33
Chapter 4: December 1987: Poole, Dorset... a time to begin 43
Chapter 5: 1990: Dorset... a time to believe 55
Chapter 6: September 1992: Werl, Germany... a time to wait 63
Chapter 7: January 1994: Werl, Germany... a time to embrace 77
Chapter 8: December 1996: Plymouth... a time to learn 89
Chapter 9: September 2000: Twickenham... a time to be born 101
Chapter 10: September 2001: Twickenham... a time to fight 109
Chapter 11: July 2002: Northern Ireland... a time to grieve 123
Chapter 12: 2004: Northern Ireland... a time to dream 131
Chapter 13: 2006: Dromara, Northern Ireland... a time to treasure 143
Chapter 14: July 2009: Dromara... a time to be still 157
Chapter 15: July 2009... a time to laugh 165
Chapter 16: July 2009... a time to leave 177
Chapter 17: August 2009... a time to hope 183
Chapter 18: Thursday 13 August 2009... a time to die 189
Chapter 19: 13 August 2009... a time to cry 195
Chapter 20: 18 August 2009... a time to mourn 199
Chapter 21: 18 August 2009... a time to weep 209
Chapter 22: 1 September 2009... a time to honour 219
Chapter 23: October 2009... a time to pray 227
Chapter 24: November 2009... a time to remember 237
Chapter 25: April 2010... a time to speak up 245
Chapter 26: May 2010... a time to uproot 251
Chapter 27: December 2010... a time to plant 259
Chapter 28: May 2011... a time to start 273
Epilogue: September 2016... a time to reflect 277

About the Author

Brenda Hale is a Democratic Unionist Party politician in Northern Ireland who was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly for the Lagan Valley in 2011. Hale's husband served with the British Army and was killed in Afghanistan in 2009. Brenda then started to speak to the Ministry of Defence on behalf of other war widows and has since lobbied and campaigned robustly to have the Military Covenant UK wide and for the government to take full responsibility in looking after injured service personnel and bereaved families. She has a BSc (Hons) in Social Policy through the Open University and is Lagan Valley Member of the Legislative Assembly, Northern Ireland (Democratic Unionist Party). Rachel Farmer is a former newspaper journalist working as a freelance editor, writer and communications specialist. With experience in professional PR and magazine editing, she currently manages communications for an international charity alongside writing and editing a magazine for the Armed Forces Christian Union. She is married to a chaplain in the British Army and lives close to Chichester Harbour on the English south coast.


Courage is found often only when we face seemingly impossible challenges - Brenda Hale's moving and powerful story is all about that kind of courage. It's an inspiration to read how, with strength from her own faith, support from friends and her own steely determination, she has overcome so much and has committed to fight to help other bereaved forces families. -- Bear Grylls
I have just read the book in one sitting. It is a great story, pacy, and an easy read . I very much enjoyed reading this account of family, faith, love and hope for the future. In her election speech in May 2011, Brenda said: "Army wives are a very special breed of person. We are strong and we are tough and you have to use that toughness and just keep moving forward." This book will hopefully inspire others to move forward. -- David Coulter * Chaplain General *
As a journalist, people often ask if I am affected by the stories I cover ? Three years ago I interviewed a bereaved young widow called Brenda Hale. I heard her story, saw her home and met her children. Her heart was completely broken, and listening to her pain and love for her lost husband Mark broke mine as well. If you have ever lost the love of your life, you will cry reading this book, and you will understand what inspired Brenda to take up a life of public service. Her story is obviously a love story and she did indeed marry a soldier. As for Mark, who did he marry? Well, in my view he wasn't the only `warrior' in the Hale household. Am I affected by stories? Very definitely, as you will be too. -- Eamonn Holmes * TV prsenter *
We live in a broken world where there is much pain and sadness which causes some people to become bitter and angry. Brenda Hale's account of her experience of that brokenness in the loss of her hero husband, Mark, is a wonderful illustration of how good can overcome evil, and how true faith grows strong in the face of the most awful tragedies. When I had the privilege of visiting Brenda in the immediate aftermath of her loss, she showed remarkable fortitude, dignity and strength. Her life and service since then bears testimony to the authenticity and reality of the faith which she and Mark shared. This is an inspirational account which will profoundly affect all who read it. -- Stafford Carson * former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland *
"As a Member of Parliament who was raised in a strife-torn Northern Ireland, I have had the honour of meeting many exceptional people who have overcome great adversity to make such a positive contribution to our society. Brenda Hale is perhaps one of the most extraordinary of these people who portrays the best of the human spirit. From that fateful moment when I called on Brenda, following the tragic death of her beloved husband Mark, I could see that this was a woman of great courage, integrity and tremendous faith. I have watched Brenda as she has continued on her remarkable journey from overwhelming loss to championing the cause of our armed forces, their families and veterans, and then to her election as a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. This is a story of love, perseverance and faith, of a life that is firmly rooted in a higher calling." -- Sir Jeffrey Donaldson
"Wars are ultimately all about people. Behind the uniform, every soldier is a husband, a father, a son, a friend - this is what motivates them as they stand shoulder to shoulder on the battlefield. I married a soldier captures the essence of a giant among men and and illuminates why all those who had the privilege to serve with him will always be better for having known Mark Hale. Ultimately it charts the tragic personal consequences of war for his beloved family. It is both gut-wrenching and heart-warming. The book is a great tribute to an inspirational man." -- Major General Rupert Jones

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