Posted by Exile on December 4, 2007
As a former serviceman, I am still very supportive of the troops in general. You know who I mean. All the young men and women that are risking life and limb for us, those that are prepared to protect us in the event of open warfare. They have little choice in where they are sent, little say in whom they must fight against and have very little representation on their return from conflict. They do their duty, keep quiet about what they have done and generally just soldier on. A small group of them do get hurt. Some die. This is tragic but it is a professional risk and reality. One accepts this when one signs on the dotted line. As we used to joke, “Warfare is the most dangerous sport known to mankind”.
What one is otherwise required to accept is, that in the event of being injured, one will be taken care of. Wounds will be dressed, bullets and shrapnel will be removed from the body (where possible) and one will be looked after by the necessary institutions that are put in place to care for the seriously wounded. That does indeed happen. But the standard of care for troops returning home with severe injuries and disabilities is sadly lacking on both sides of the Atlantic. This has not escaped the attention of a certain Mr. Jeremy Clarkson, better known as presenter of the BBC “Top Gear” motoring show and columnist in the esteemed Sunday Times. He and his wife, Francie, were invited to visit a badly wounded survivor of the Iraqi/Afghan conflict who is presently being treated for multiple amputations and wounds as a result of battlefield carnage. Here is a short extract from the Sunday Times article:
What they found at Selly Oak hospital– which is part of the University Hospital Birmingham NHS foundation trust but also houses the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine – was profoundly shocking.
The National Health Service care was extremely good but the soldiers had no dedicated ward. Colleagues were not allowed to visit wearing uniform for fear of upsetting Muslim visitors and staff. Once their emergency treatment ended, even those as badly injured as Parkinson would have to join the NHS waiting list for the physiotherapy they needed, along with everyone else, despite having fought for their country.
That same day they met a 19-year-old whose last memory was of mortar fire as he was blown up in Afghanistan – losing the use of one leg and sustaining terrible stomach injuries – and who had woken to find himself in a geriatric ward.
How is all this possible? This is not what I expected of a country which I served so proudly for eleven years. Ordering troops into battle is a grave decision to have to take. Living up to the responsibility is the least one can expect from the political leaders that make that decision. Why are these men and women, so badly hurt in the service of their country, not being given a dedicated facility with all the necessary means to get them back on their feet (if they still HAVE feet?) both physically and mentally?
I can only direct my anger at the politicians. I am sure the nursing staff are doing all they can. Why is there no political will to help these victims of circumstance? Surely money is not the problem? Or is it?
The Clarksons were determined to continue to do what they could to help. Their friends had shown that there was a well of goodwill out there towards the soldiers that was at yet untapped. What they didn’t know was that Bryn Parry, a cartoonist and former member of the Royal Green Jackets, had also visited the wounded soldiers and come up with an inspired idea: a new charity, Help for Heroes, which is now part of The Sunday Times Christmas Appeal. It aims to channel that goodwill into the provision of better facilities for men such as Parkinson. WHEN the Selly Oak soldiers were fit enough to leave hospital, many were transferred to Headley Court, a military rehabilitation centre in Surrey which has specialist facilities for amputees.
At Headley Court no one is allowed to feel sorry for himself. “They call it beasting, but they look after each other, pull each other up,” says Francie. “There’s lots of laughter and a feeling that they are among their own.”
The centre is publicly funded but its facilities are far from lavish, which is why Help for Heroes is raising money for it. One of the gyms where amputees are put through their paces is effectively a tent.
I find it shameful, that a charity organisation is having to provide resources for these brave souls. The government must be, and should be, held accountable for the well being of these men and women. But I do applaud the efforts of the charity organisation. I am glad that someone has taken up the challenge. If you want to give a Christmas present that will really mean something to someone, there are links to the charities at the end of this blog. Make a donation.
One thing that does get up my nose in a big way was quoted earlier on this page. Here it is again:
“Colleagues were not allowed to visit wearing uniform for fear of upsetting Muslim visitors and staff.”
No-one ever stopped to think, that the presence of muslim visitors and staff might upset the recovering troops that lie in the beds waiting for a visit. I thought I could wear my uniform with pride, anywhere.
Apparently, being proud of serving ones country is now forbidden in the UK for fear of insulting the muslims. Again.
Read the article, then visit the websites. Links follow here: