Dylan John was just seven years old when his dad, Corporal Dean John, died, aged 25, in Afghanistan.
It had an enormous impact on his life.
“It’s defined me with what I am now, if that had never happened, I would be a completely different person,” he said.
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His dad was serving with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) when he died on Sunday, March 15, 2009, after his vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Garmsir. Dean died alongside Cpl Graeme Stiff.
His wife Wendy, mother to his three sons Ethan, Harvey and Dylan, said back then: “Dean was a much loved husband and father and treasured by all his family.
“He will be fondly remembered. Dean died doing the job he loved, fighting for his Queen and country. He was our hero and will live on in our hearts. Dean lived life to the full and was always happy and smiling. He will be greatly missed.”
For Dylan, a young boy at the time, it would have been difficult to fully understand what had happened to his dad.
Dylan and his brother Harvey with their dad Dean at Butlins
(Image: Richard Williams)
Dylan John, now aged 19
(Image: Richard Williams)
He said: “I had to mature quickly and deal with things that no child should every have to deal with.
“I woke up realising that he was not there anymore and he’s not going to be there when I walk down the stairs.
“I had family members going through the same thing and friends who were around me. It was definitely hard and also on my mother as she had to look after all three of us and I had to take charge.
“My mum tells me a lot about him anyway. She’s been absolutely amazing. What’s great is that I have all these memories, I will cherish them for all of my life.”
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He said he could reconcile himself with his father’s death because he died doing what he loved best.
“I could cope with it at the beginning as I knew that was what he wanted to do in life and no matter what he was a hero no matter the situation.”
The 19-year-old drama and acting student at University of the West of England in Bristol, added: “When my father passed away, I had all my friends and family around me.
“While it was sad and completely heartbreaking and I had a tough couple of years I am this person because of that.
“It has allowed me to grow stronger and better.”
The last photo of the family together. Dylan is pictured on the right of his mother
(Image: Richard Williams)
Dylan (on the left middle) with his dad, mum and two brothers, Harvey and Ethan
(Image: Richard Williams)
There were warm tributes to Dean following his death.
The Ministry of Defence said he was a happy and loveable rogue who could always be found up to his elbows in the engine compartment of any vehicle that even looked like it needed some work.
“He had an enormous appetite for hard work and a tenacity that drove him to extraordinary lengths to fix problems. His inquisitive and active mind would analyse why some component had failed and seek a solution to avoid a reoccurrence,” said a spokesperson.
The Army said the “avid” motocross fan was addicted to anything mechanical, “loved his job and his mates and was never one to miss a party”.
QDG Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Alan Richmond said: “The loss of Dean John has cast a dark shadow over the Regiment. He had been part of our Regimental family for almost three years. He was a huge character who had a reputation for hard work and professionalism, capped with a wonderful sense of humour and love of practical jokes.
“He was a proud Welshman who loved his job, his friends and his family. He was one of the most incredible mechanics with whom I have had the privilege of serving alongside; so utterly dependable that people fought to secure his services.”
Lt Col Richmond added: “He was universally popular and so widely respected because of his incredible capacity for hard work and tenacious determination to fix everything mechanical. He was also so clearly happy in his work and had such a bright future ahead of him. Dean’s death is a great loss to all of us in the Queen’s Dragoon Guards.”
And Squadron Leader Major Charlie Waggett said: “At a time like this it is hard to put into words the sense of the loss felt by so many people for such a lovely bloke, for such a top man. Cpl Dean John was the best of so many things – always so bright and cheery, I cannot remember a moment when he did not seem to be at the top of his game.
“He was incredibly dedicated to his role, and he was immensely good at it. The amount of hours that he dug out to ensure the Squadron’s vehicles were task-worthy cannot even be fathomed. But Cpl John was so much more than just an excellent soldier. We, his friends, have lost someone who truly was a little bit special: someone who would always smile even when the chips were down. Someone who had a mischievous glint in his eye and an enormous sense of fun in his character; and someone who was there for other people.”
Corporal Dean John died after his vehicle was caught up in an IED blast in Garmsir, Afghanistan
There were warm tributes to Dean following his death
Ex-Glan Afan Comprehensive schoolboy Dean, who won top student at the Army Preparation Course at Gorseinon College in Swansea after joining when he was 17, had previously toured Afghanistan and Iraq.
Between deployments, Neath-born Dean had lived with Wendy and their three sons – Dylan, seven, Harvey, six, and Ethan, two – in Detmold near Paderborn, Germany. When they returned to South Wales, they split their time between his family in Port Talbot, Wendy’s mum Mary Evans and her dad Philip Evans in Pyle, near Porthcawl.
Dean flew to battle from RAF Brize Norton on October 15 and was due to return on May 5. He enjoyed two weeks rest and recuperation in February before flying to Afghanistan, which military families shorten to “Afghan”, on March 5 – 10 days before his death.
“He rang me the night before he died. Every Saturday was his regular time for speaking to me and the children. He told me how busy he was and we laughed and joked. He was always laughing. That’s how I’ll remember him; so full of life,” said Wendy previously.
She told how it was 7pm on Sunday, March 15, when two Army officers visited the couple’s home in Germany to tell her Dean was dead.
“They knocked the door and asked me if I was the wife of Cpl Dean John. I just knew something terrible had happened,” said Wendy.
“I truly didn’t believe he got killed. I thought he had been injured or something; my mind wouldn’t believe anything else had happened to him. I was telling them it wasn’t happening. I remember thinking they were talking about someone else. It’s just your worst nightmare.”
She said she told her children, “their daddy had been in an accident and he’s gone up to heaven.
“They look at the stars and say the brightest star is their daddy.”
At Dean’s funeral, shops shut and hundreds of mourners clutching daffodils lined Port Talbot’s streets as a newly-launched Owen’s Haulage truck carried his coffin past them.
Dean had wanted to start a haulage company when he left the Army and call it DTJ & Sons. Wendy organised a floral arrangement depicting a truck bearing the name for her husband’s funeral.
In 2017 Dean’s children met The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at a Buckingham Palace tea party to honour the armed forces.
Dylan with his brothers Harvey, then 14, and Ethan, aged 10 at the time at Buckingham Palace
Dylan with the Duchess of Cambridge
Wendy said at the time it was an honour to be there, but also bittersweet because of the reason they were invited.
Now an adult, Dylan said he like everyone else was concerned about the unknown when the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in 2021. He said he felt a sense of “dread” watching the insurgents taking over Kabul.
He said: “When it first happened no-one knew what was going on. I feared what was going to happen. When the incident happened in Kabul and the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan, I felt a sense of dread. People who have been in the Army and regular people all felt progress had been undone.”
Dylan said he had watched events unfolding in Afghanistan with a sense of dread
(Image: Richard Williams)
He said that when the Army went into Afghanistan in 2001 the Taliban ruled over the country in a brutal regime with an iron fist.
“There were many things that the Afghan people couldn’t do when they started that campaign and then they were free.”
But he said it was not the role of the British Army to liberate the people of Afghanistan and that it was simply a knock-on effect.
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“It definitely makes a difference looking back at the 20 years that we were there. I heard someone say it was 20 years lost in 10 days – we were never there to liberate but to train forces to defend themselves.
“It was up to them if they wanted to fight.
“I know those 20 years have not been in vain – we have made strides and a difference. They had 20 years where they lived free from fear. The campaign had a lot of benefits and changed people’s lives.
“Now we have got out of Afghanistan.”
Every year Dean’s family stage a Daffodil Walk in memory of the soldier to ensure he is never forgotten, and support different charities by doing so.
Dylan said that even as he entered his second year at university, living with his loss was still a challenge he had to deal with every day.
“The first couple of years were rough and even now it’s hard,” said Dylan.
“My best memory is of him being cocky, confident and I don’t have a care in the world. A lot of squaddies have his mentality.
“Those memories are still there.”
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