Yes, I am a veteran. I have quite a number of veterans and serving members of HM Forces on my Facebook friends list.
What worries me more than anything is the number of posts telling each other its OK to not be OK and offering helplines for suicide prevention.
This Government and those before it are in my opinion criminally negligent in the aftercare offered to service personnel of all arms.
We have too many of our veterans living on the streets. Far too many are suffering when returning to civilian life that they turn to drugs or drink, and eventually they end up in prison, on the streets or contemplating self-harm.
Meanwhile, we have charities that were set up to help injured soldiers that are sitting on millions of pounds of donations.
Why? What good is it in a bank, when we have personnel sleeping rough and in need of help?
At the head of it all, we have a government who are content to accept yet another pay increase and whose much-lauded Armed Forces covenant is largely a box ticking exercise.
I visit the USA and the way they treat their veterans is not just streets ahead of the UK, but decades.
You walk into an airport and they have their own lounges to use, they get boarded ahead of others and are generally treat with the respect they deserve.
We get a badge.
And later this year, a card…
When I told my GP practice I was a veteran, it was scrawled on a scrap of paper and I was told they’d update my file, but 5 months later, this wasn’t the case. So much for the covenant…
If those entrusted with my day to day health don’t care, then why should I expect those who hold elected office to be bothered?
Suicide last week took one of the most respected NCO’s in the Royal Engineers.
Robert ‘Rab’ McAvoy had served his country with pride and distinction when and wherever he was asked to.
Aged only 39, and leaving behind a family, how can we allow our Armed Forces personnel to suffer like this?
We have a soldier facing prosecution for doing his job in Northern Ireland while those terrorists he was shot at by are free to walk the streets with a piece of paper thanks to Tony Blair.
How on earth can any serving member of the forces have any faith in those who are in power when they are repeatedly stabbed in the back and let down?
Recruitment across all the arms is at an all time low. Some say this is a fault in the recruitment process and its use of civilian firms in the process, but when you see just how badly the forces are treat, would you join up to serve?
This is a failure from top to bottom. From the Prime Minister of today, and going back to when I served, the Government has let service men and women down repeatedly.
Sadly, Rab was just the latest in a long line of soldiers who suffered to the point where they felt unable to carry on.
Why is the mental health of our servicemen and women so important?
Because it is they who do the jobs around the world when asked to by politicians that others cannot or will not do.
They put their lives on the line to keep you, and others safe without thought of harm to themselves.
It’s impossible to verify how many former service men and women DO commit suicide as these statistics are not collected, which is VERY convenient for the Government and the MOD.
They are not just Armed Forces, they are British Armed Forces and they deserve better from those who are supposed to support them.