Kirk wants more aid for ‘broken’ soldiers

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THE Church of Scotland is calling for the Government to give more help to ex-servicemen after a Lothian minister told the General Assembly of the plight of “broken” men whom no-one wanted to know.

The Rev John Wells, minister of Bilston, Glencorse and Roslin, won unanimous support from the Assembly for his call for the government to make fuller provision for the ongoing care of former forces personnel, rather than relying on charities.

He said during eight years as part-time chaplain at Saughton prison he had met numerous former soldiers.

“They had served a number of years in the forces, they had left the forces and then their life had become chaotic – post- traumatic stress, alcoholism, violence. They found themselves in prison and their lives continued in a downward spiral.

“I still have a constant stream of men coming to the door of my manse in Roslin, through prison connections. They are men who are broken, exhausted and no-one wants to know them.

“They don’t have a permanent address so they can’t have a doctor and can’t access medical care. Yes there is government money going in a drip-feed system to charities, but it is not consistent.

“I want to urge the Government to provide for men and women who have put their lives on the line and have watched some of their colleagues die before their eyes and have come away traumatised by that experience.

“They don’t just step out of their uniforms after a wee debrief and say ‘I’m OK’. Months or years or decades later, their lives fall apart because they cannot hold the memories of what they have witnessed, experienced and done.

“I want the Government to provide for men and women throughout the rest of their lives by putting money into more consistent care.”

The Rev John Chalmers, principal clerk to the Assembly, whose 23-year-old son John James was severely injured exactly a year ago while serving in Afghanistan, endorsed the call.

He said: “I can say the system for looking after wounded servicemen is second to none. The Government, shortly after coming to power, reviewed the compensation scheme for military personnel who were wounded and made significant improvements, though it’s still not an easy system to find your way through. But for those who are not physically wounded, there may well be huge cracks in the system.

“We have been with soldiers who have been in theatre and experienced things you would hope no-one would have to experience, but because they come home without visible signs or wounds there is less inclination for them to seek support and less inclination for us to seek them out.”