The grieving parents of a soldier who fought alongside Prince Harry have delivered an emotional plea for serving men and women to seek help for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Nathan Hunt was recognised for his bravery during his time in Afghanistan, where he courageously located roadside bombs planted by the Taliban.
The father-of-one struggled with combat stress upon his return and was found dead at his Lincoln home after failing to attend a meal with his parents on New Year’s Day.
He was just 39.
“He went out to war and saved many lives, unfortunately he couldn’t save his own,” his father Derek Hunt told ITV News.
Derek and Maria Hunt said they wanted to “remove the stigma” of PTSD to prevent another family losing a loved one to the mental illness.
Mr Hunt “lived and breathed” the Army since joining aged 16.
He served alongside Prince Harry in a desert reconnaissance unit in Helmand province in 2008.
He received a Mention in Dispatches for his courage and professionalism in identifying improvised explosive devices, which have resulted in the deaths of multiple British soldiers and Afghan civilians.
“My heart’s full. Absolutely. We’re proud of him. All the family are,” Maria said.
But Nathan’s experience on the frontline triggered mental illness and despite seeking help, he died by suicide on January 2.
Prince Harry was among those to write to Nathan’s family to express his sadness at the tragedy.
“With Nathan he couldn’t speak to us either because he didn’t want to worry us,” his father Derek said. “He sought help within the forces but he would only go to the psychiatrists when he was on his good days.”
Maria added: “I think his career would have been halted and he didn’t want that. He liked promotion, he loved the Army so they just block it out.”
Martha and Derek Hunt. Credit: ITV News
Derek, who himself served in the Army for 22 years, insisted he and his wife do not blame the military for their son’s death but hope the tragedy will change attitudes and ultimately save lives.
“The politicians send our guys and girls out to war..when they come back from these conflicts to me they should have a proper debrief, they should be mentally assessed to see what their mental state is – just give them that support,” he said.
“If just one serviceman out there doesn’t become a victim of what our son has become then he wouldn’t have died in vain.
“He went out to war and saved many lives, unfortunately he couldn’t save his own. But if he can save someone else’s life from this day forth then he’s achieved something.”
In a highly emotional and personal plea to serving British soldiers, Nathan’s mother said: “Don’t bottle it up. Go and speak to somebody. Speak about it. Whether it’s with your friends or family or seek professional help.”
“I want another family not to have to go through this and to remove the stigma for people be able to go forward.”
If you are in distress or need some support, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day on 116 123 or through their website