Rifleman: 'Without the TA, I'd either be in jail or dead'
THESE are the words of Rifleman Mark Taylor, reflecting on his battle to turn his life around after enlisting with the Territorial Army three years ago.
By his own admission, Mark, 28, of Hardwicke, got into a lot of trouble as a youth and was well known to Gloucestershire Constabulary for assault, robbery and drugs.
It was his way of dealing with his grief after the death of his cousin Kalisha Gordon.
Kalisha, 21, of Tuffley, died in 2008 in Ayia Napa after a haemorrhage caused by an ectopic pregnancy.
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Speaking while training with 6Rifles on Exercise Leopard Star in Germany this week, Mark said: "It was a massive shock to the whole family because none of us knew she was pregnant.
"I went off the rails and went out at all times and got into a lot of fights. I was well known to the police and got to a point where I could see I was either going to end up dead or in jail.
"There were still people still looking out for me including Delroy Ellis, who encouraged me to do something productive with my life and help him out with the youth work in the area. But I told him I couldn't sit there and tell the kids not to do things I was still doing."
Instead, Mark decided the best way to get his life back into order was to join the regular Army, but because of a court case he was told to come back in six months.
"I went back and was told for a second time to come back in six months. But by this point I was getting impatient and decided to look into joining the French Foreign Legion," said Mark, who has three children.
"I decided to return to the recruitment officer a month early and if he put me off again I would join the Legion. He was not there but there was another guy who suggested I signed up with the TA."
Mark had to complete six weekends of basic training followed by three weekends of infantry-specific exercises.
He spent two intensive weeks training with regular Army recruits at Catterick, in North Yorkshire.
Out of the 72 trainees, he was named the best recruit.
"Joining the TA has instilled discipline into me and made me more robust and able to handle situations better including in my personal life," said Mark, a car salesman.
"It also keeps me fit and healthy and I hope many young people in Gloucester will see this as a positive way of doing something with their lives instead of making a nuisance.
"The best moment came when my mum told me I had become such a better person and my dad said he was really proud of me."