Being a soldier’s mum, Sharon Mercado admits her heart skips a beat more often than she’d like.
The Shieldhill mother-of-three has coped with her son being in the Army for almost four years, but it was only when he was called for a tour of duty in Afghanistan that the roller coaster of emotions really began.
She said: “It’s been very difficult because, as a mum, you always just want to be there for them.
“When he first said he was going, all I could think was that I didn’t want my son to die.
“At the same time I was happy that he was doing what he wanted to do and we are so proud of him.”
Sharon’s 20-year-old son Harry Chadwick is currently serving in Afghanistan, but in the not-too-distant future he’ll be returning home.
To celebrate the homecoming, Sharon’s friends and family will be holding a fundraiser in Reddingmuirhead, with the proceeds going to the charity Help for Heroes.
She said: “We could have just had a party, but we wanted to do something to raise money.”
And Sharon’s taking the fundraising to another level ... by getting her tongue pierced.
“I’m quickly approaching 50,” she said, “and it’s not the type of thing that a normal 50-year-old mum would do, but for me it’s symbolic.
“I wanted to do something that would represent the pain that many soldiers go through.
“It’s obviously not the same, but I wanted to do something.
“But I am nervous. I just don’t do pain.”
Sharon has been in Shieldhill for over 12 years after moving here from England.
She has already dealt with tragedy, losing a son when he was just three years old to a complex brain condition, but is sure it has brought the family closer together.
She said: “Harry was very lucky because he got to come home recently for my daughter’s wedding.
“It was a very emotional day for us all as her brothers walked her down the aisle.”
Harry joined the Scots Dragoon Guards just before his 17th birthday, but was recently posted to what’s now a notorious war zone.
Sharon said: “You see what’s on TV and you read what’s in the newspapers about Afghanistan, but that’s where he wanted to go.
“When they sign up, you know there is a strong possibility they will see active service and Afghanistan is the one place the majority of soldiers go, so I knew that the time would come.
“When he told me, part of you wants to use the time before he goes to do all the things you want to just in case he doesn’t come back.
“But we are a very close family and we are always having a laugh, so we just kept it as normal as possible.”
Sharon said that she knew just as much about what soldiers would be doing in Afghanistan as the next person but a specially arranged information event put her at ease.
“It was a course for the next-of-kin about what would be happening in Afghanistan, and it changed the way I felt about it.
“It made me realise how much work the Army does to support the troops.
“If anything happened to my son, I knew I’d be the first to know.
“If it’s a fatality or serious injury, I know there will be a knock at the door.
“So, for the past few months, any time there has been an unexpected knock at the door my heart has missed a beat.
“On day, quite late at night, I noticed two men sitting outside for about half an hour and it was terrible.
“They soon drove away, but my heart was racing.”
Before Harry left, Sharon had to make sure that her son’s affairs and will were in order.
She said: “When I drove him to the airport, it did go through my mind that this might be the last time I saw him.
“It was early in the morning, and I cuddled him and he said, ‘you should go, it’s cold’.
“I cried all the way home.”
Contact with the soldiers is not always possible in Afghanistan, but, when they do call home, it’s easy to know if something is wrong.
Sharon said: “Recently, a colleague of Harry’s was killed and Harry was there.
“He was really down and he sounded so different on the phone. As a mum you just want to be there and help but I couldn’t.”
Sharon added: “One of the hardest things as a mum is feeling a bit isolated.
“Many of my friends have children but they are not in the Army.
“I can talk to them and they can sympathise but they cannot empathise.
“It would be nice to know and talk to someone who’s going through the same thing or who has someone who’s at war.
“But my friends are like my family and the support I get from them is fantastic.
“I am immensely proud of Harry for doing his duty, but I can’t wait to have him home.”