Reflections of a Veteran on International Nurses Day
As a veteran I am embarrassed by the amount of support showed to veterans and the armed forces personnel. Each year we celebrate Armed Forces Day, Veteran’s day, Armistice day and Remembrance Sunday. People line the streets and watch as veterans parade past, we stand and hold a minute’s silence for those who have fallen in service, whether you agree or disagree is irrelevant, the point is, where is this respect for the men and women of our emergency services who have fallen in line of duty.
As a Solider I deployed several times to conflict in the Middle East and after 9 years’ service, the sum of those deployments and over sea’s exercises equated to about 20% of my career. The rest of that time was enjoyed over sea’s, on sports, on travel and so on, working hard and drinking hard as soldier's do! It was not all bad and it was certainly not all armed conflict and deployments.
I compare my service to the police force for example, men and women who are there to uphold law and order, they are spat on, they are assaulted, they witness the most extreme cases of abuse, child abuse, domestic abuse and so on. They are exposed to the most brutal of murder’s, rape’s, and torture, they handle life’s most undesirable characters on a daily basis and are treated at times with contempt and violence.
I compare my service to the paramedics and nursing teams in accident and emergency, again, they get abused, assaulted, threatened, they tolerate drug and alcohol fueled violence and intimating behaviour, yet they remain professional and seek to help and save life. They are over stretched and underfunded, but when we pick the phone to call 999 for life threatening conditions, they come to our need. They are front and center of trauma, they are first on scene of major accidents, they witness the most extreme casualty cases, but where is the support for these people, where is the support for PTSD, stress, and other mental health conditions? As a veteran, I am embarrassed by the lack of support for our front-line staff. Across the veteran communities we see fund raising for charities and homelessness and housing, yet we don’t see such help for the emergency services.
I compare my service to carers, especially those who care for the elderly. In a society where elderly people are seen as an inconvenience, in a society where elderly people cannot keep up with our frantic pace of life, we rely on carers to be at times their only social life, their only support, their only friend. At an age of life when many friends and family have passed-on and people are lonely and vulnerable, we rely on carers for the answers for food provision, blister packs, medicine, personal hygiene, and social connection. Yet how do we treat carers? Low pay, poor contracts, unattainable time scales and targets, no training and no qualifications.
I compare my service to the Fire and Rescue services, who again will be first on the scene of major explosions, major car collisions, building fires and so on. Firefighters who will enter burning buildings to save lives, rescue teams who are required to think on their feet to find answers for challenging and complex extractions. People trapped under rubble, trapped in cars, animals trapped in dangerous locations, these men and women risk their lives when we pick up the phone and dial 999.
Now let’s look at the last 13 months, throughout this pandemic, all eyes were on the ordinary men and women of our NHS, the doctors and nurses and paramedics who had to go above and beyond the call of duty. At the end of their shift, they risked taking this virus home to their loved ones, and sadly many passed away. They don’t have medal parades, there is no Victoria cross medal for bravery, they simply get on with the job of saving lives. Their weapons are surgical equipment, medicines, gases, bandages and so on. My weapon was a rifle and an armoured vehicle, are you starting to see who the real heroes are?
When I left the forces, I had access to termination leave and had the choice of resettlement training, I choose woodwork and I used my paid termination leave to travel to Brazil. I also had 10 years to use my enhanced learning credits which are accepted in most education and training establishments. I also had access to veteran’s support, I was also supported with a CV and job searching workshops. The career transition partnership also provides information for housing and such like. What support do our emergency services get after 10, 20, 30 and even 40 years’ service? Please do not say a pension!
As a veteran I hear a lot about PTSD and mental health and homeless issues. I have been homeless myself and that brought a very dark cloud with it. I did not see myself as more deserving of a home or support than anyone else in that situation, I would go as far as saying there were other people who needed a home more urgently than me, who were neither veterans or emergency service people, they were simply human and had the same rights as us all! Yet, we expect veterans to be placed at the front of the queue, i would glad stand to the side and let others who require help get the help they deserve.
On International Nurses Day, 13 months into a pandemic, I think its time we show our emergency services the same respect and support which is showed to the armed forces. I believe its time for a National Day to pay our respects to the all the men and women off our emergency services. I don’t have the figures to hand, but I do believe more doctors and nurses have fallen due to COVID than the number of service men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan combined… let that sink in.
So, this is a huge thank you to all the Nurses and staff of our amazing NHS from a very humble and grateful veteran.