A young soldier who fought in one of the bloodiest battles in Afghanistan as a teenager is calling for more help for veterans.
Christopher Carr, a former private and machine gunner, lost nine friends during Operation Herrick Six in 2007.
"It was the worst fire fights throughout the whole conflict," Chris, previously of 2nd Battalion Mercian Regiment, told Birmingham Live .
"Nine soldiers were killed, nine. I watched them all die around me, pals being shot in the head.
"I was 18, just a boy, a child and I was exposed to violence like nothing else.
"I remember losing one of my closest friends, Johan Botha.
"He was a South African lad and was behind enemy lines. We could hear him on his radio, saying he was feeling dizzy and said, 'Don't leave me, I'm dying.'
"I just kept thinking his wife will have a knock at her door. It broke me."
Ex-private Chris joined the British Army as a bright-eyed 16-year-old.
"I grew up on a council estate in Redditch," he said. "I kept seeing all the recruitment videos of young lads having fun together, looking very proud.
"So I wanted to make my family proud and to make something of myself. I finished my Army training in Catterick and I was the youngest solider in a platoon of 50 men.
"I was initially stationed in London serving on public duties, being a ceremonial guard at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.
"Shortly after, I served in Afghan on a frontline tour in Helmand Province before Op Herrick Six, watching people die around me.
"I was also involved in the Battle of Garmsir, again two friends died."
A clear target for the enemy having been stationed on top of trucks behind huge machine guns, Chris said he killed three people, if not more.
The sheer trauma of non-stop conflict changed Chris forever.
"I was seen by a mental health doctor in Camp Bastion but, not wanting to leave my comrades short, I soldiered on. You've just got to crack on," he said.
"It was pure torture. Upon returning to Helmand we were supposed to go back to Cyprus for what's known as decompression [for health and wellbeing].
"But we were literally pinned down by the enemy for 11 hours straight. It was pitch black and the Taliban were attacking us.
"We didn't get to go to Cyprus for help and, less than 24 hours later, I was marching on a parade in London."
Chris left the Army in April 2009 with an honourable discharge after serving just under four years.
"I just started to act strange and, rather than helping me, they basically kicked me out," he said. "I was behaving badly, the trauma of spending six months surrounded by pure hell was too much.
"They've got a duty of care and I feel like I've been totally abandoned, I have suffered terribly with cocaine and alcohol addiction. It's been chaos for me.
"After leaving, I've had zero help from the Army or the Government I fought for.
"I've been diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety as well as combat-related post traumatic stress disorder, something needs to be done.
"Eighty-nine soldiers have died from suicide in the last five years, that's more than those who died from combat.
"I have even called Buckingham Palace, asking to speak to the Queen herself.
"I have been advised to write a letter to her private secretary, which I will be doing."
Wanting to start a new life away from the "chaos", Chris moved to Malta in 2017 and, tragically, was involved in a car crash which killed two people.
"I broke my back, both legs, my lungs collapsed and I ruptured my spleen and liver. I was lucky to survive. It was a freak accident."
The 29-year-old says more should be done to support veterans, adding how fellow ex-soldiers struggle to blend back into society and the normality of life.
"The Army trained me to be a soldier but they never retrained me to be a civilian," claims Chris, who is currently jobless and lives in Solihull.
"They literally knocked it out of me when I was still a boy. The first six weeks' training is literally designed to break you, to knock the civvy out of you.," he claims.
"You're being trained to think and act in a certain way, it does not serve me in a civilian environment and [the Army] didn't help me.
"I'm trying so hard to get through it but it's really difficult.
"If it wasn't for [addiction charity] Changes UK and [wellbeing charity] Straighten Arrow, I'd probably be dead.
"My brother's I fought alongside are out on the streets suffering, just like me."
When asked if he was 16 again, would he join the Army, Chris added: "No. I'd deter anybody from joining. The way I've been neglected, totally wrong.
"There are good times, yes, like when bombs went off knowing you're defeating the enemy but the promo videos don't show you your mate's legs missing.
"It was horrible, being a young boy and witnessing all that violence.
"Even now, I go up to visit the war graves in Yardley and literally stand to attention for 45-50 minutes. I feel like I have to do it, I can't be normal again, war changed me."
A spokesman for Ministry of Defence said: "We take the mental health of our personnel extremely seriously, and anyone suffering is treated by our dedicated clinicians through the Defence Medical Services.
"We have increased spending on mental health support for those serving in the armed forces to £22 million a year and our mental health helpline for serving personnel operates 24/7 so there is always somewhere to turn in times of crisis."
- Chris has encouraged other ex-servicemen struggling with addiction to seek help from Straighten Arrow by e-mailing [email protected]
The organisation works with ex-offenders, veterans and people with addiction and trouble upbringings, using physical training and group mentoring.
- Changes UK also delivers innovative, person-centred support for people seeking abstinent recovery from drugs and/or alcohol.
Changes UK can be contacted on 0121 796 1000.
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