In quite a scathing attack, Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry VC, Britain’s most decorated serving soldier, has criticised what he sees as the Government’s failure to help soldiers suffering from mental trauma as a result of service in combat zones.
He said that those who are still serving in the armed forces do get some form of help for combat stress, but added that more could be done and that the Government is failing in its duties.
Beharry became the Army’s most high-profile war hero when he was awarded the VC for ‘repeated extreme gallantry and unquestioned valour despite a harrowing weight of incoming fire’.In his own case, he states that his treatment has been ‘first-rate’, but says that servicemen and servicewomen with a lesser public profile often have to wait on the NHS for treatment.
In a statement made to The Independent, he said:
‘These are people who have served this country. Why can’t they get treatment? I don’t think the Government is doing enough for soldiers. Those who are still serving get some form of help for combat stress but even those who are serving don’t get enough support.
I think it is disgraceful that an ex-serviceman or woman has to go to the NHS. The Government should have something in place for ex-servicemen and women.’
According to the Ministry of Defence, there were nearly 4,000 new cases of mental health disorder diagnosed among armed services personnel during 2007.
There are all too often stories of military personnel being ‘let down’ by the Government or Ministry of Defence, be it relating to inadequate equipment for the job in hand, medical assistance or even pensions. One only has to look at the disgraceful way the Gurkhas have been treated.
Setting aside the question of whether British troops should be deployed in combat zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the first place, these men and women are putting their lives on the line on a daily basis, so surely they deserve more ‘respect’.