HERO soldier Neil Guffick survived a deadly bomb blast that ripped through this 20-tonne tank he was travelling in and killed eight of his Army comrades.
But tragic Trooper Guffick never got over losing some of his best friends in the attack in Afghanistan and died aged 36 after suffering from a catalogue of health problems.
Today his devastated mum Carol Guffick paid tribute to her son, who was forever changed after a roadside bomb blast ripped through the armoured tank he wasb travelling in during Operation Panther’s Claw, in Helmand Province, in 2009.
Brave Carol said: “I was proud of him as a soldier and a fighter, but most of all I was just proud of him being my son.
“I’ll miss him so much and I just want him back.”
Trooper Guffick, from Hartlepool, had served in the Army since he was 18-years-old in the Light Dragoons, which recruits in the North-East and is based in Norfolk.
He saw successful service in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
But the brave soldier’s fortunes took a downturn in the Middle Eastern war-zone on July 3, 2009, when he and his fellow soldiers were hit by an roadside bomb.
Several of his comrades were killed but Trooper Guffick – who was in a tank which was fortunately installed with extra armoured plates just weeks before – escaped with a badly damaged spine.
He also lost close friends later in the conflict including Anthony Lombardi, from Hull, a month later.
Neil was flown from Afghanistan to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for treatment, but then when he was released he went missing and featured in an appeal in the Hartlepool Mail from his worried family which made him return home.
A short time later Trooper Guffick, who went to Jesmond Road Primary School and then Dyke House Comprehensive School, was diagnosed as suffering from combat stress and Carol said he just could not get over the death of his friends.
Carol, 62, a retired barmaid, who lives with Neil’s dad Brian, 61, a joiner, in Raby Gardens, Hartlepool, where Neil grew up, said: “He just couldn’t get over the death of his friends. He wasn’t the same person and he wasn’t depressed about it, he was just angry and he used to ask why he was alive and his friends were dead.”
As a result Trooper Guffick left the Army in October last year and was sent to a soldiers’ recovery centre in Edinburgh, and then went to live in a residential home for servicemen called The Beacon, in Catterick Garrison.
It was there that he developed a severe ulcer from the back of his throat down to his gut, but he lost four-stone before it was diagnosed.
Then just six weeks ago doctors diagnosed him as having pneumonia and he was admitted to The Friarage Hospital, in Northallerton, where his condition worsened and he had to be rushed to The James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough.
He lost his fight for life on Tuesday, July 10, aged just 36.
Heartbroken Carol, who is also mum to Joanne, 42, and Kevin, 40, and grandmother-of-seven, said: “He battled through this illness, but he was just so weak that he couldn’t win.
“The only thing we can do to get over this is to think that his friends have come for him. He’s in peace at last after being tormented about the death of his friends.”
She added: “He was just lovely, and he always knew when to give you a cuddle. I haven’t got the words to describe him really, I just can’t believe he’s gone.”
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