THE BLOG

We Must Do More For Those Who Have Served Their Country

21/06/2017 13:33
Christopher Furlong via Getty Images

I was privileged to attend the summer ball held at Grosvenor House by Care After Combat, a wonderful charity which helps veterans struggling with alcohol and substance abuse and goes into prisons to provide therapy and counselling.

Guests included cabinet ministers David Davis and Michael Gove; Katherine Jenkins, who is a trustee of the charity, sang at the event and General Sir Michael Rose, former commanding officer of the SAS, spoke about the achievements of our armed forces during the Falklands war 35 years ago. Simon Weston, who is the charity's patron, became one of the best-known faces of that conflict after suffering horrific burn injuries, so his words had extra resonance.

I first became involved in the charity after hearing about their work at a party conference and being really impressed with what they were doing. A couple of years ago I decided to donate the proceeds of my book Worlds Apart to the charity.

The veterans helped by the charity have bravely served their country and asked for nothing. But, in many cases, they have been let down by the lack of support after they left the Armed Forces. It's sad that they are now reliant on a charity to get the help they need when they have put their lives on the line defending their country. The government hasn't done enough for them.

Listening to General Sir Michael Rose, I was struck by the thought that we all live by the faith of our flag. It's what unites us as a country. The Armed Forces are a force for good in our society and they are like a second family for those who have served; some recruits come from broken homes and the Armed Forces give them stability, but they can't always find the same stability once they have left, particularly if they are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or a similar condition.

For me, serving in the Territorial Army was the most important experience of my life. I met people I never would have encountered and learned things about myself that I never knew. Regardless of your background, you're just a khaki T-shirt when you join. You learn values and discipline; it shapes your life.
I believe we should introduce part-time national service in this country; it would be good for young people, taking them away from hours on end spent in front of computers or on social media and channelling their energies into something more positive. The younger generation are lost; the Armed Forces give you a sense of identity.

It certainly gave me an identity; I never felt so stable, emotionally, as when I came out of the Territorial Army. I understood who I was and where I belonged. Bear in mind, I grew up in an inward-looking Muslim community at the time of the Satanic Verses controversy, the Bosnian War and the Gulf War. The seeds of radicalisation were sown in the 1990s, but serving in the TA made me realise that, whatever happened, my identity was British. This is my country and I'm proud of it.

This Saturday is Armed Forces Day when we are asked to remember the men and women currently serving, or who have served their country, and their families. They have given their service to Britain and some of them have given much more, suffering life-changing injuries. We should be so grateful to these brave men and women and it's a perfect opportunity to show our support by attending one of the many events taking place around the country or, even better, by supporting a charity like Care After Combat, which does so much to give them the help they deserve.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS