Care after Combat

December 04, 2019

Doctor’s Log - Star Date 04122019

Why Veterans Matter

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that actions speak louder than words."

As we approached and celebrated Armed Forces Day earlier this year, history seemed to be gradually closing its doors behind us as we moved forward in our present and immediate past. We should therefore acknowledge that remembering is infinitely more than solely giving thanks but more about demonstrating a commitment to those who have served all of us.

Many of us are unable to comprehend the experience of conflict and the onerous burden placed upon families and loved ones. We are, needless to say, a better country for what our veterans, serving personnel and their families sacrifice, but fail them if we do not recognise the continuing challenges following their service.

For many reasons, most of which are not Service related, a proportion of veterans become involved in the criminal justice system. The financial cost is of course considerable but the overall burden for the family is immeasurable. Nevertheless, investing in these veterans is good for them and therefore good for us; they are after all part of the future. How much of their talent is wasted because we fail to acknowledge the wealth of both their individual and combined experiences.

As part of our ongoing work, I met a young man at HMP Winchester earlier this year whose father had served onboard HMS Sheffield during the Falklands conflict in 1982, an event which has personal memories, when as a member of the Surgical Support Team we lifted survivors off “The Shiny Sheff” for transfer to HMS Hermes. He clearly idolised his Dad but went on to tell me he was never the same when he returned home. He died five years ago as a result of “drinking”. I was mindful of the generational legacy which is frequently hidden from view.

Care after Combat has many friends and supporters who work tirelessly on our behalf, but there are of course, countless veterans’ charities, some founded over a century ago, who provide a range of services and support. We are therefore indebted and extremely appreciative for all donations, recognising the time and effort invested by all those individuals involved.

Working with veterans in prison is significantly challenging and not for the faint hearted. Mentors are required to undergo rigorous training prior to embarking upon their work. We are equally expected to produce evidence-based outcomes and our results are subject to rigorous scrutiny by the Ministry of Justice Research Department and the University of Portsmouth.

Our reoffending rates are remarkably low and as a result the family, the economy, the NHS, Social Services and the Police are all beneficiaries.

Thank you for helping us to help them.

Our work is never done - and will continue long after all the troops come home. We should therefore never forget why veterans matter.

Dr Nicholas Murdoch