Prince Harry is approaching the 10-year anniversary of his life-changing second tour of Afghanistan in which he fired on the Taliban .
The Duke of Sussex left Britain for the front line in Helmand Province in September 2012, days before his 28th birthday.
Harry had been to the warzone before as part of Britain’s ground forces. But that tour was cut short when his presence was leaked by an international media outlet in defiance of a news blackout agreed to by the British press to boost his security.
When his presence became widely known, Harry was withdrawn just 10 weeks into his first deployment, in 2007.
However, the duke was determined not to repeat the disappointment the second time around in 2012. He not only completed his second tour but also experienced at least one moment powerful enough he compared it to his experiences with Princess Diana and Meghan Markle .
Harry told the Armchair Expert podcast in May 2021: “Helplessness, that is my biggest Achilles heel. There were three major times that I felt completely helpless, one when I was a kid in the back of a car with my mum being chased by paparazzi, two was in Afghanistan in an Apache helicopter, and then the third one was with my wife.”
Ten years on, Prince Harry has been stripped of honorary military titles given to him by the royal family, including the highly coveted role of Captain General of the Royal Marines.
However, he retains his medals, his rank and his experiences, which have in the intervening years allowed him to build a relationship with the forces community both in Britain and America .
Harry’s first tour saw him involved in a major operation to disrupt the Taliban’s communications and part of his role was to coordinate strikes from the ground, the BBC reported.
However, when he came back five years later, he had completed training as a co-pilot gunner on an Apache attack helicopter, operating in the skies above Helmand to offer covering fire for troops on the ground.
British newspaper The Sun reported that he killed a Taliban commander from the air in December 2012.
Harry was asked about the suggestion during an interview at the end of his tour. While he did not confirm that specific story, he acknowledged he had fired on the enemy.
The prince told the BBC : “If there’s people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we’ll take them out of the game, I suppose. Take a life to save a life. The squadron’s been out here. Everyone’s fired a certain amount.”
The prince also fired on Taliban forces who had ambushed American soldiers, giving the troops the opportunity to airlift to safety.
Among them was Christopher “Tripp” Zanetis, from Indiana, whose parents told The Sun of the royal’s role in the rescue.
John Zanetis, 73, his father, said: “Prince Harry came in with his protection squadron and blew the enemy to pieces.”
Sarah Zanetis, 63, his mother, said: “They provided enough cover for Tripp to get his men loaded on the helicopter. I believe there were Taliban members killed.”
It is possible the world may get to know a lot more about the prince’s time in Afghanistan later in 2022 when his memoirs are due for publication.
A press release, sent to Newsweek in July 2021, read: “Covering his lifetime in the public eye from childhood to the present day, including his dedication to service, the military duty that twice took him to the frontlines of Afghanistan, and the joy he has found in being a husband and father, Prince Harry will offer an honest and captivating personal portrait, one that shows readers that behind everything they think they know lies an inspiring, courageous, and uplifting human story.”
Harry’s past comments on his military service suggest there may be a powerful story to tell.
He told the Declassified podcast in November 2020: “I wear the Poppy to recognize all those who have served; the soldiers I knew, as well as those I didn’t. The soldiers who were by my side in Afghanistan, those who had their lives changed forever, and those that didn’t come home.”
He added: “Being able to wear my uniform, being able to stand up in service of one’s country, these are amongst the greatest honors there are in life.
“To me, the uniform is a symbol of something much bigger, it’s symbolic of our commitment to protecting our country, as well as protecting our values.
“These values are put in action through service, and service is what happens in the quiet and in the chaos. It’s what happens in the darkness, it’s what happens when people aren’t looking. It’s what happens on and off the battlefield.”
For more royal news and commentary check out Newsweek ‘s The Royal Report podcast:
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