Veterans deserve to be well treated by the society they served
This week the News Letter has run a series of articles on military veterans connected to Northern Ireland.
This includes veterans who live in NI, after serving all round the world as well as at home, and veterans of Operation Banner, who served in the Province during the Troubles, but now mostly live in Great Britain.
The experiences of those soldiers varies greatly, from people who escaped trauma to those who have been badly scarred.
In 2008, the News Letter ran a series of articles from Afghanistan and talked to young men who had been involved in some of the most fierce gunfights experienced by British soldiers since World War Two. One later lost limbs in an IED blast.
And an earlier generation of veterans, who served at the height of the Troubles here in the 1970s, not only lived in fear of explosions and bullets, but also saw civilians injured or killed in bombs. They were often the first on the scene in horrendous attacks in which people lost eyes and limbs — a category of victim who, as some critics of the legacy structures have pointed out, are unlikely to get redress.
Some military veterans are in such despair that they have attempted suicide (in some cases tragically succeeded).
It is essential that people who put themselves at risk in defence of their country are well treated by that society.
In many respects veterans in the UK are well treated but in other respects they are not. In Northern Ireland it is appalling that the Military Covenant is not fully operative. It is also a scandal that being ex police or services is not an advantage to getting a border force job in Northern Ireland as it is in Great Britain — ruled out here on equality grounds.
It is an even greater scandal that several elderly veterans of the Troubles now face trials for historic killings, when so little progress has been made against the worst terrorist crime.
Our series however has highlighted the good work done by charities such as Beyond the Battlefield, and South East Fermanagh Foundation (opposite) – work that deserves support.