AS she prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of his death, the heartbroken mother of a teenage soldier killed in Iraq says every day remains as painful as the day the terrible news was broken to her.
Sunday will be 10 years to the day since 18-year-old Aaron Lincoln, from Durham, was shot dead by a sniper in Basra, one of the youngest British servicemen to die in the conflict.
Mother Karen Lincoln yesterday placed a bouquet of red and white roses at his grave, which she has lovingly tended for the last decade, as she gets ready to endure the anniversary of her son’s death.
“It’s on my mind every day,” she said: “It is just as painful, it’s just as raw.
“I just want to get the anniversary over and done with, because I can’t stand the pain.
“There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think of him”.
The teenager had been serving in Iraq with the 2nd Battalion The Rifles for just three months when he was shot dead in April 2007.
His patrol came under fire and, as his unit responded to the initial attack, Rifleman Lincoln was hit by a sniper firing from a different direction.
He was evacuated to a field hospital, but died of his injuries.
Mrs Lincoln, now 53, said: “I was working in a pizza shop at the time and I got a phone call to say two army policemen were at the house and could I come home, so I knew something was wrong.
“I hadn’t felt well that day – they say a mam knows when something is wrong with her son.
“I walked into the sitting room and I saw the two army police there and my husband crying and I just collapsed, they didn’t have to say anything.
“It is the worst feeling you can get, the worst feeling for a mother”.
Mrs Lincoln and husband Peter, along with Aaron’s brothers and sisters Donna, Craig and Christina, have ensured over the last decade that the young soldier and his sacrifice is never forgotten.
His grave, in the quiet Belmont Cemetery near the family’s Gilesgate home, is decorated with flowers in red and white and his heart-shaped headstone is adorned by a photograph of the young man in uniform.
Placing a heart-shaped bouquet of red and white roses, with the simple message “Miss You & Love – Mam and Dad,” Mrs Lincoln said: “He will never be forgotten. I have a memory garden for him in the garden and a memory tree.
“I hang an extra poppy in its branches every year and we have red and white flags hanging from it.
”I keep in touch with his friends and some of the other mothers, such as Michael Tench’s mother, and a few of his mates from the Army.
“I talk about him all the time, but I have my good days and bad days”.
Aaron was just 17 when he joined up. After a brief stint working in a supermarket, he revealed he wanted to join the Army and asked his parents to sign the consent forms.
“His dad didn’t want him to go in the Army,” said Mrs Lincoln, “But he always wanted to do it even as a youngster, so I signed the papers. People ask if I feel guilty, but he wanted to do it.
“When he walked past at his passing out parade I was so proud”.
Eight months later, she received the phone call telling her that military policemen were waiting to see her at her home.
Ten years later, she has no doubt who she blames for her son’s death.
“It’s all down to Tony Blair,” she said. “Ten years of hurt and pain and it’s all due to him.
“It is never going to go away, not your bairn going before you.
“My bairn was just starting his life. He might have gone on to have his own children, we don’t know what sort of man he would become.
“Birthdays, Christmas, Remembrance Day, anniversaries, they are all hard, but all the days are just the same to be honest. It’s as hard as ever.
“I come up to the cemetery all the time. His family and friends all come up, but I don’t let anyone else put his flowers on – I do that and I will do it as long as I am alive.
“He did us proud.”