TOO many military veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have died suddenly for these tragedies to be dismissed as coincidence. Yet, because there’s no formal way of collating the outcomes of inquests into these deaths, the seriousness of the issue is unclear.
It shouldn’t be. Each and every death is a tragedy, irrespective of whether its cause is attributed to suicide or not. And though each and every circumstance differs, ex-service personnel – and particularly those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – deserve better. Not enough appears to have been learned from the first Gulf War of 1990.
Even though these are people who risked their lives when they went to war on this nation’s behalf, the difficult transition to civilian life is, for some, the hardest battle of all. Yet, while the prospect of closer scrutiny might be uncomfortable for the Armed Forces and wider military family, noted figures like Admiral Lord West, the former head of the Royal Navy, argue that it makes “absolute sense” to collate data from inquests.
And the point is this. Such information can then be used to see whether victims of PTSD, and other mental illnesses, are receiving sufficient support from a practical, medical and emotional perspective and whether the Government, charities and other agencies should do more. For this reason, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson should lead from the front and act accordingly. Support for military veterans isn’t just about wearing a poppy every November to commemorate the Armistice – it is, in fact, a 24/7 obligation as the state belatedly comes to terms with the human legacy of Britain’s more recent military interventions.