Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Let's Help Those Who Give So Much to Protect Us; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Let's Help Those Who Give So Much to Protect Us; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Anderson

THE defining issue of the last decade must be our intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. They were deeply divisive and undoubtedly divergent views will never be reconciled.

However, it is heartening that no one blames the men and the women on the frontline. Contrast this with the hugely negative response in the United States as troops returned from Vietnam in the Sixties and Seventies.

We ask our troops to do abnormal things on our behalf. Most of us would run a mile if someone was shooting at us. I can tell you from personal experience that when someone fires mortar bombs at you the natural response is to hide as far back in a bunker as possible.

But troops don't have that luxury.

They have to face an enemy that now takes many guises. And never forget that we ask our troops to be prepared to die for us and also to kill for us.

I have recently become heavily involved with a veterans' group known as Forward Assist. They work closely with former service personnel whose experiences go right back to the Second World War. Most have experienced real problems in restarting their lives after discharge.

While we are very good at training our people for war, we are nowhere near as good at preparing them for day-to-day life in the confusing world of today.

Many veterans are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. Without proper care and attention, many fine young people seek help from the bottle or the needle - but that only makes matters worse. Some end up in the criminal justice system and a downward spiral.

It is these people that Forward Assist seeks to help. The project director Tony Wright, himself a former Royal Marine, was a workmate of mine in Newcastle City Council's social services department.

He then moved into probation and saw an increasing number of veterans who had fallen through the gap.

He set up the charity to reach out and assist these lads and lasses, and I am very proud he asked me to become a patron. …

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