Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Homecoming Military Enlist Peer Help

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Homecoming Military Enlist Peer Help

Article excerpt


OUR armed services enjoy an increasing and special place in our national life thanks to their work in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Iraq and currently Afghanistan.

I was myself deeply privileged to serve as the Private Parliamentary Secretary to the Armed Forces Minister in the last government.

Of course, you don't have to be a supporter of war to acknowledge our forces' bravery. We should never forget the sacrifice in young lives lost and men and women injured or maimed for our security.

The armed services are, in the words of singer Elvis Costello, the boys from the Mersey and the Thames and the Tyne. After London, the North East is the second biggest recruitment area.

Affection for the armed services is bolstered by the staggering number of people who have served our country in recent generations. It is estimated that this includes five million people. If you add in their families, this means that almost a third of the United Kingdom's population have direct linkages.

Most who leave the forces for civvy street settle back well but a significant minority has big problems and special needs.

I have been discussing all this with Tony Wright, a local man who was himself in the Royal Marines, was medically discharged and retrained as a social worker.

Tony talks with passion about the "completely lost" people he kept bumping into as a social worker. The composite picture looks like this. A guy from a poor background, often with few educational qualifications, joins the Army. Everything is totally regimented, literally. Then he leaves after, say, a decade or longer and has to readjust to a society that he doesn't understand and which doesn't understand him.

Buying a television licence, paying bills and keeping a home are all new. Tony says that for some "they take the civilian out and put the soldier in but they don't put the civilian back in when you leave". …

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