By Chris and Chris Morris
Jason receiving his end of service awards at 18 years 9 months in December 2010 (3 months before he died)
Our second son, Jason, completed his Gold DofE Award in the Army Cadets. Not only had he recovered from leukaemia, with chemotherapy between in 2000 but he also had Down’s syndrome. This was a remarkable achievement considering his moderate learning disability, low immunity and tiredness.
In December 2010 when Jason reached 18¾ years, he had to leave cadets and proudly received his Final Parade Award. He was presented with a framed certificate, a flask and lamp for camping and an engraved wrist watch. The Sergeant chose a watch to remember Jason’s incessant quest for time, “What’s the time, Serg?”
Jason’s two and a half years in the Army Cadets made a man of him. He became more independent and was encompassed by his comrades. As he needed visual prompts for theory, we made a series of illustrated and laminated flash cards at home. The Sergeant decided that he would have an inclusive policy for Jason and that all the cadets would learn with flash cards. Whenever ‘Top Brass’ came for parade inspection, some of the cadets gathered around Jason to adjust his uniform and straighten his beret. Despite Jason’s fatigue and learning style, he radiated warmth and humour which endeared the cadets to him. He always wanted to ‘have a go’ at everything the cadets did and he chose ‘Rifle Shooting’ as his new skill, in which he excelled. As far as we understand, Jason is the first person with Down’s syndrome in Derbyshire to join the Army Cadets.
During his time at cadets, he graduated from Secondary school in Ashbourne to Derwen College in Shropshire, for a three year residential course, where he studied Horticulture and Creative Arts as his main subjects. Unfortunately, during his second year in March 2011, he met his untimely death following a short illness, complicated by pneumonia and septicaemia. The Army Cadets rallied for his funeral; they provided a Guard of Honour at the church with their flag on his coffin, decorated the reception hall, covered his memorabilia table with their camouflage net and assisted our guests by serving tea and coffee cake – Jason’s favourite.
Jason’s funeral with Army cadets as guard of honour 1 April 2011 (photo-courtesy of Ashbourne News Telegraph)
Later we followed up Jason’s Gold DofE log book which needed to be completed. Finally we were invited to St James’ Palace in November 2012 to receive Jason’s Gold DofE Award posthumously. On arrival we were given a privileged guided tour of the Royal apartments, and then led to an ante-chamber for a private ceremony with the Duke of Edinburgh himself, for three minutes exactly. He shook hands with each of us in turn, acknowledged Jason’s photo in Army Cadet Uniform, and spent quality time with his elder brother, Ezra, who had just finished his university degree. We were pleased for Ezra because so much of Jason’s progress in his younger years was due to Ezra’s input, and he gave further encouragement whenever they were both at home.
This was truly a most memorable day for us all.