Lest We Forget; It's Not Only Ageing War Veterans Who Have Served Their Country So Well, Our Armed Forces Have Fought in More Than 20 Conflicts since WW2 to Bring Us the Modern Day Veteran

Article excerpt

TODAY, the term war veterans no longer just means the dignified old men and women who fought valiantly in the First and Second World wars.

Since then, Britain has been involved in a number of conflicts, most recently in Iraq for the second time in 12 years. And while it is right to honour the memories of everyone who has fought for our freedom throughout history, it is also vital to remember there is a new generation of veterans - those of the Falklands War, the Bosnia conflict and from both Iraqi invasions.

Men and women experience terrifying situations the rest of us only ever see in movies, then come home and try to return to normality as best they can. British Legion spokesman Neil Griffith said: 'Winning the Second World War is the most significant moment in Britain's recent history. There was barely a democracy in Europe at the time and if we had lost, all of our lives today would be so different.

'Thousands of people died in order to win our freedom and that sacrifice must never be forgotten, but there are also many men and women who have fought in the 20 or so conflicts Britain has been involved in since 1945, whose efforts are just as valid.

'Unlike the Second World War, these battles have not been for the good of Britain, but the fact that those involved have been willing to lay down their lives for the sake of their fellow man rather than countryman is almost a greater sacrifice.'

So to mark War Veterans Awareness Week, from July 3 to 10, SAMANTHA BOOTH spoke to two Scots veterans of more recent conflicts

SINGLE MUM FACED BULLETS AND BIGOTRYSINGLE mum Sharon McCann signed up for the armed forces when she was 25, lured by the promise of travel and excitement.

What she didn't expect was to be going undercover in Northern Ireland.

She said: 'One of the best parts about being in the army is that it's a job which is full of surprises.

'Not many people get to see and do the things you have to as a soldier, and going undercover in Northern Ireland was maybe one of the most frightening.'

Sharon, from Glasgow, had to pretend to be a civilian looking to buy buildings in an area where Orange marches passed through and trouble was expected.

But getting on the property ladder was not in her remit.

Instead the 34 year-old's job was to find out which buildings would make good bases for soldiers to secretly hole up in during the marching season in case trouble broke out.

She said: 'It was scary because you knew if anyone found out what you were up to they would go for you, but it is just part of our job.'

Sharon also served in the last Iraq war. In many ways her job was the same in the desert as it is when she is in barracks - to take care of paperwork and organise soldiers' wages. The only difference being, when she was in Iraq she was responsible for making regular trips to the front lines to dish out fortnightly wages in cash, often under fire.

She said: 'The first time heard shots go off near me I admit I panicked a bit, but then I had to tell myself that this was the way it was going to be, and I just had to get on with it.'

Perhaps the hardest part of being in Iraq with the Royal Scots was being separated from her five year-old son, Adam, for six months.

Sharon said: 'I'm a single mum and while Adam has always been used to me going away for a few weeks at a time on exercises, I had never been away from him for that long before. He stayed with friends during the week then my mum took him back to Glasgow at the weekend. He was fine as long as I phoned him once a week. …