The British Army had been an employer for over 15 years, most of it ok, some of it awesome, a bit of it not cool, and a small minority bit, downright devastating and life changing.
The good bits included skiing, parachuting, rally driving, firing shit and driving everything, playing with the American kit (Black Hawks, Hummers, carbines, girls) Dutch kit (Dragonov sniper rifles, girls), afghani kit (AK47, RPGs, (no girls)) , German, Italian, Spanish in fact just about every other military force from the western alliance (and some Middle East) even different weapons from different times 🙂
The not cool bits included working all hours preparing for deployment, then whilst on deployment, working all hours to keep the kit fit for purpose. Then after deployment working all hours to get the kit back into shape for non operational roles. Then working all hours in preparation for deployment……. You can see where this is going, and that’s just the tempo of the military now, in fact it’s going to get worse because of cuts. (Cunts! You decide)
The ok bits were the times stolen from all the prep and bullshit, the times spent with family, wether it be your own family (husband/ wife/ kids/ brothers/ parents etc) or your extended family, I.E, your mates from your unit. These times were ok slipping into the cool, depending on the unit and the powers that be.
The awesome bits were measured in incidents, wether again that be with your immediate Or extended family, having a child! Awesome, winning a fire fight, awesome, staying alive after multiple rocket attacks, awesome. As you can see, the soldiers definition of awesome my differ a little from the civilian one, still it doesn’t lessen the impact of the individual awesomeness.
Then the downright life changing things, the near death experiences, the loss of friends and colleagues, the near hopelessness of certain situations in the face of certain aggression by overwhelming odds, all these have an impact on the lives of the ordinary soldier, who in turn is just an ordinary human put in an extra ordinary position.
We all signed up for it, we all knew it wasn’t a tickling competition we were entering, we all knew the consequences. So I’m not going to pop at the Treatment we got during duress and stressful situations. I’ll just have a little whine at the treatment we are getting AFTER the fact, mainly after we are thrown onto the pile of ex servicemen, in the bucket that has a hole, in the file that hasn’t a label, to be frank, on the tip!
Cuts came, I left and I thought that was that. But the problems had started way way before that point, apparently (now I’m reliably informed) that stemmed from the multiple conflicts (the medals adorn my chest) I was deployed to. As a soldier, that’s my job so no point sating the bleeding obvious, “well that’s what you signed up for, it’s your own fault”, I actually had an old friend say this to me only yesterday and I haven’t seen him for over 25 years, needless to say in my mental state I was a gnats cock away from throwing him under a bus, but I held myself in check, smiled and continued our chat. Needless to say I will NEVER speak to him again. (Not because of his words, but because he hadn’t moved on in those 25 years, his selfish “woe is me” attitude is as strong as ever with him wanting the world to owe him a life.
So I’m out the army now 🙂 I took on a role of “Learning walker” in a school in Croydon, now it seems like a strange title, but all it meant was that I patrolled the corridors looking for kids that had been kicked out the class and sitting down with them encouraging them to get back in and learn. Hey I was good, then I was asked to be a science teacher. Yeah, you heard right, a science teacher. The guy who I replaced lost the plot and was booted. They gave me a laptop and a timetable and sent me home to learn the ropes!!!!! Next morning I had a form class and a full day of teaching!
This was fun, I honestly enjoyed it, getting kids to listen is bad enough when they are home, but to try and get a class of the buggers to listen AND learn!!!! Well my heart and admiration goes out to the good teachers. Unfortunately, my time came to and end at that school, life took me in other directions and the waves took me to Cyprus. I became a PADI Dive master in Pathos and enjoyed the underwater world from the first second. That lasted over the summer September/ October when the season finished and I made my way back to the UK.
The government were happy to have me here, I’m sure, then I left the next year in March. Went back to Cyprus where a job and accommodation was lined up, but the new guy in charge was not my cup of tea, to say the least we didn’t see eye to eye, so that chance disappeared. I was forwarded to a couple in Sinai in Dahab, there I did my instructor training and stayed for the rest of the season. All well and good to be away from the country, not being a bourdon to the welfare state. Until circumstances from my time in various war zones caught up with me AGAIN, (seems I wasn’t fixed!!!)
Coming back to Blighty to get the help I needed, I was interviewed by a charity called “Combat Stress” (CS) who deal with veterans with mental problems. They gave me good vibes and hopes for treatment, I then got onto the local health dudes who out me in touch with a civilian therapist to tide me over until the others could accommodate me. During this time, I informed the powers that be, that I was back in the country. That’s where the problems started.
I was asked to make an appointment, done, I was asked many questions, done, I was told to do an “Habitual Residence Test”, (HRT), a what now? This is a test for all coming into the country either foreign, or, from an extended stay away. I looked into these rules later and I’ll explain then. Anyway, this test was a mockery, instead of the umpteen pages on the computer at the job enter, it was completed in ONE. The old girl wasn’t sure what had happened but brought it to a close there and then. So that was it as far as I was concerned.
I was driving to Newcastle a week or so later and my phone rang, I answered and was informed it was the DWP. I told them to ring me back as I was driving, but they insisted I talk to them. Pulling over I asked what was so urgent. They asked a few more questions about the form (that wasn’t filled in) and said goodbye. Again, I left it at that. Low and behold I received a letter from the government saying I had failed the HRT and wasn’t slid gable for any benefits for a period of three months. Now to the criteria for having to do an HRT.
According to their own rule book, if you have been on a gap year or an extended period of holiday for less than one year, or if you have family in the area, you will not be subject to the test. Well, I had been away for nine month (they have proof of this) AND 8 have a daughter, a father, brothers and a sister here, in England……..OH, and I have a British passport AND a veterans badge with a record that says I have been in the BRITISH military for 15 years. AND A CHEST FULL OF MEDALS including a Long Service and Good Conduct medal……… You get that for doing 15 years service. None of it mattered.
I appealed against the decision, but it was told in no uncertain terms “Tuff, you ain’t having nothing from us matey” I suppose if I was a smack head, an alcoholic, an immigrant, a dole Waller who has never seen a wage packet in his (or her) life, then I probably would get everything on offer. But an ex soldier who served his country and saw action in three different places over a decade of fighting, I was entitled to nothing. Well, as you can possibly imagine, this took a little toll on my life, the PTSD didn’t help, and coupled with the rejection of my mother country it started to impact on relationships, thinking process, mood swings, generally everything that I had tried to alleviate since 2004.
So a trip to “Holly Bush” house in Scotland for a six weeks intensive therapy course with therapists and nurses and everything you need for a safe environment. Mind you I had issues there,but on the whole, I would say a positive outlook was aimed at. I won’t go into details of the course, but a lot of good information was passed across (and not only by the staff) good bonds were made and progress was sought.
Back to Afghanistan (after a panic attack in the car on the way home) I immediately rang the DWP to tell them I needed to put in a benefits claim. This was done over the phone (oh I neglected to tell you that before I went to CS I was informed by the local job centre that as I cannot claim benefits, then i might as well not sign on) when I got off the phone, I compiled a plan to arrange meetings with the Royal British Legion (RBL) and the Service Providers and Veterans Agency (SPVA) to see what I can do because my liaison officer from CS was on holiday.
I had some help from these to organisations (some still ongoing, others still waiting for the appropriate time to step in) letters and phone calls from the DWP were dealt with by people who know what they are doing (seriously, get a pro to help) then the CS point of contact came round. We chatted and I told him my frustrations (most pointed at CS themselves) but he did do one thing for me, he got me in contact with an organisation called “Soldiers off the Streets” this is where things started to happen.
A phone call from them introduced me to a guy called Dave, who was a homeless veteran with no help when he got out, the charity work is done in the basis that no one (especially veterans) should be in that position. Within 48 hours, I had a meeting with these guys (and telephone conversation with a guy in Catterick reference housing) and the outcome was the chance of a place in Afghanistan to call my own, with more telephone calls made and emails sent by this charity, it seemed feathers had been ruffled.
Aft six months of being no one in the uk, with nothing but the clothes I wore, I was bombarded with letters and phone calls informing me that I was entities to this and that, and all my problems had been sorted months ago, and blah blah blah……. It seemed that a phone call, or an appropriately addressed email had done the trick. MPs, were involved. Solicitors were ready to take action, councillors wee challenged on the law, everything that could be done by these guys, was done.
I now sit here writing this, waiting for the keys to a house, waiting for the benefits to be paid, waiting for the things that (in reality) should have been sorted out nearly six months ago. All because one woman didn’t do her job correctly. I visited the job centre the other day and was given a list of names and telephone numbers to ring, being a vet with PTSD, I asked why I wasn’t given this six months ago? They said I should have been, and apologised. I asked why I was given an HRT, they said I shouldn’t have been, and apologised,
It’s amazing what help there actually is out there for Veterans but isn’t given. It’s just like the army, you leave and no one tells you anything. Did you know you can claim a WAR pension straight away? Did you know you can claim for injuries sustained during service, straight away, did you know that there are organisations that are willing to help, as long as you get in touch with them? These things are not given to you, or the information I should say. So I will endeavour to put a pack together for ALL service leavers of the generic help and organisations you could want. How to approach the DWP and who to call upon.
This shouldn’t have to happen to anyone in the UK, especially the guys and girls who serve in our military. There are too many charity organisations set up by ex service personnel, it should be done by OUR government. The are happy to give money away to Organisations that have little/ no, or detrimental help to our nation. I’m taking the fight back to them, who’s going to help?