An Iraq-born immigrant was devastated after Sheffield recruitment officers rejected his plea to join the British Army.
Father-of-one Harde Azeez, aged 20, had dreamed of joining the army ever since coming to the UK from his conflict-torn homeland as a teenager.
He credits the move with saving himself and younger siblings from violence which could have cost them their lives.
However, his hopes of becoming a British soldier were dashed when he was turned away from the Armed Forces Careers Office in Church Street, Sheffield city centre.
And Harde and wife Abigail, of Tinsley, have blasted the way he was treated by staff.
He said: “I went to sign up, they asked me questions then asked where I was from.
“I said ‘I’m Kurdish, I was born in Iraq’. The woman went away and said she’d have to check something, she came back and told me that I couldn’t join.
“It felt like they were saying no because of where I was born.
“It was just the look she had on her face. As soon as I said the word ‘Iraq’ it was like I’d stabbed her.
“I came here when I was 16 with my mum, dad and my little brother and sister. Where I come from we would see things people here could not imagine.
“I think my family might not be alive now if we hadn’t come here.
“I said I want to fight for this country. It has given me life, it has given me everything.
“I have been in this country for nearly five years. I have a British passport.
“They didn’t tell me why they couldn’t accept me. I want to know. Is it because I am different? It is not fair.”
Abigail, aged 25, had initially tried to dissuade her partner from leaving her and four-year-old son Haythen to risk his life for Queen and country.
But Harde, who has worked in warehouses and other manual jobs since leaving school, was determined to give something back to the country which took him in.
Abigail said: “He wants it so much, so it was upsetting to see him turned away like that.
“We asked to see someone else there but they didn’t give us any proper answers.”
A spokeswoman for British Army’s recruiting group said: “We cannot comment on individual applications.
“We receive applications to join the British Army from those born in Iraq and many other countries who have a proud tradition of serving with us.
“However, all such applicants must have indefinite leave to remain in the UK or have resided in the UK for five years before they can start an application to join the Army.
“Also they must not have been out of the UK for a continuous period of more than 180 days, or six months, during this five-year period.”