Tony Blair was and still is a civilian. He sends good men into illegal wars ignoring the advice of good military commanders. He keeps his own brood close to his chest whilst testing the battlefield with other peoples children.BiscuitsAB said:
This is no way to treat a soldier
Pte Steve Baldwin was badly injured in the bomb attack that claimed the lives of three friends in Iraq. His doctor says he has post-traumatic stress disorder. The MoD says he must leave the Army because of his 'temperamental unsuitability'. By Terri Judd
Published: 18 March 2007
Private Steve Baldwin remembers little about the roadside bomb. His first recollection is coming round on the floor of the armoured Land Rover to find one of his closest friends dead on top of him. Two more colleagues died in the attack.
"I can remember screaming. I could smell the smoke and soot, feel the grit in my teeth. I kicked open the door of the Snatch and climbed out. I turned around and looked back in. I grabbed Leon [Pte Spicer] and was slapping him and screaming, but I knew he was dead," the 22-year-old explained.
The two young men, who had trained and joined the 1st Battalion Staffordshire Regiment together, had been mid-way through a patrol in the volatile Amarah region of southern Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded. Pte Baldwin and another soldier were seriously injured.
Pte Baldwin had happily joined the Army, knowing he would go to Iraq and relishing the opportunity for adventure. He felt excitement and fear in equal measure. But he came back, according to his family and friends, a broken man. He had changed. As well as being physically disabled, he was tortured by nightmares, flashbacks and violent mood swings.
An NHS doctor diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Military doctors refused to accept his diagnosis or award Pte Baldwin a medical discharge. Instead, he has been told he will be discharged for " temperamental unsuitability" Â in effect, fired. To a soldier, once proud to wear a British Army uniform, it is the ultimate insult.
A week after The Independent on Sunday highlighted the plight of abandoned servicemen and women Â thousands of whom suffer from PTSD, anxiety and depression but are failed by the system Â Pte Baldwin said: "They call it a family and say they look after their own. But they don't even phone and check how you are doing. You just feel pushed aside."
The young man is a striking illustration of the unprecedented levels of mental health problems being suffered by soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many complain of feeling discarded and betrayed. Experts are predicting a mental health "time bomb", with thousands more veterans expected to experience severe problems first identified as " shell shock" during the First World War.
Thousands of British soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are living in virtual poverty back in the UK because their compensation payments have been delayed, in some cases by up to three years.
The government-run Veterans Agency has admitted that more than 7,000 former soldiers are waiting to receive financial help. Critics say the payments system is slow and bureaucratic.
"It's been hell for my dad and me," Private Kevin Challis told The Mail on Sunday. Private Challis, who was wounded in Iraq in 2004, is still unable to work because of his injuries. He has waited five months for compensation but none has come. He says he cannot afford hot water or heating. He pays for food using his father's pension and his income support of Â£118, which he receives every two weeks.
After the IoS investigation into the plight of soldiers, leading politicians, military experts and figures from the arts have accused the Government of breaking the Military Covenant, which guarantees that troops will receive proper care and support in return for their sacrifices. Five hundred people have signed a letter to Tony Blair on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, following disclosures that soldiers are facing homelessness, poor medical treatment and even the threat of prison because of trauma-related behaviour.
There has been a chorus of condemnation, with politicians from all sides, as well as military figures, accusing Mr Blair of abandoning soldiers after they have served. The country's last military hospital is also due to close this month.
The Tory MP Boris Johnson said: "There is a strong argument for assuring our armed forces that they will be treated, at the very least, in a separate ward, and in an environment where they are surrounded by people who understand the nature of their experience. The Government should certainly live up to its promises, and recognise the special sacrifice the military makes in the service of this country."
Sue Smith, whose son Pte Phillip Hewett, 21, was killed in July 2005 and who founded the Military Families Support Group, said: "I can't understand why they can't have a military hospital which would take pressure off the NHS, which is already cracking. Politicians ... don't listen at all to military families."
Michael Meacher MP said yesterday: "The Government should meet the families of the bereaved to discuss their concerns and to meet their requests for fair and proper treatment for servicemen and women, in line with the Military Covenant."
Pte Baldwin, who has taken the rare step of speaking out despite still being a serving soldier, says he supports this newspaper's letter to Mr Blair.
The scars where the roadside bomb tore into Pte Baldwin's arm and back stretch across his body. Surgeons had to stitch other muscles together to replace the triceps he lost in his right arm. Slowly, he has recovered the use of his limb, but it is the mental scarring that has proved so debilitating. The flashbacks and nightmares bring back the horror of the 16 July 2005. He still wakes up in a cold sweat.
"I had been in the end vehicle but they were short of a man so I joined the front vehicle. Leon and I were to share the top cover. He said, 'I'll go first and you do the radio.' Two minutes later, he was dead," he explained. It was not until someone dragged Pte Baldwin from his futile attempt to revive Pte Spicer that he realised he, too, was bleeding heavily.
After being injected with morphine, he sat in the back of a Land Rover, awaiting a helicopter as he watched colleagues attempt to revive another friend, Pte Phillip Hewett. "It was like seeing something out of a film. It just wasn't real," he explained.
It was not until he reached the military field hospital that he realised Pte Hewett and patrol commander 2nd Lt Richard Shearer, 26, had also been killed.
After he was flown home, the flashbacks increased, the nightmares plagued his sleep, he became prone to violent mood swings and lost his ability to concentrate. "We were driving up a road one day and a moped went past and backfired. I just froze. It brought me to tears," he said.
He would break into violent rages, smashing up the house. "Sometimes the flashbacks would start with the explosion, sometimes it was something totally different. Seeing Leon and slapping his face is an image that comes back a lot. I would feel myself getting angry for no reason, but I couldn't stop myself. I would kick things and throw things about. I knew it was wrong but I couldn't help it."
The Army sent him to two psychiatrists, but both refused to diagnose PTSD.
Mrs Baldwin said: "He used to be so laid back. But when he came back it was awful, I felt I was treading on eggshells. I worked really long hours because I didn't know what I was coming home to. I was terrified almost every day. He was not the man I married. He was a completely different person." They split up, and Pte Baldwin returned to his family home in Nuneaton and locked himself away.
"I was told I was borderline mental illness. I was not entitled to a medical discharge. I would get a 'temperamentally unsuitable discharge'," he continued. The discharge means he does not get the compensation his family believes he deserves.
Pte Baldwin was awarded Â£10,000 for physical injury, but experts said he could lose out without a medical discharge for mental injuries. Instead of automatically being eligible to be considered for further compensation he would have to apply himself, enduring an uphill struggle as military doctors have already dismissed the diagnosis of the NHS.
Today, Pte Baldwin and his wife are trying to rebuild their marriage and their life. In sharp contrast to the military medical services, the NHS has diagnosed him with PTSD and he is receiving counselling. His regiment and old friends are now back in Iraq. For six months, he has been waiting to hear what is happening with his discharge. He feels abandoned.
One of the few people outside his family and close friends to keep in touch is Sue Smith, mother of Pte Hewett. "It is disgusting the way he has been treated," she said. "It is pretty sad that these lads do their duty for Queen and country and once they get back injured nobody wants to know."
An open letter to the Prime Minister
The Independent on Sunday last week revealed the mental health crisis within Britain's armed forces, and the poverty of treatment available to service personnel suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of serving in battle. The newspaper also published an open letter to Tony Blair, calling on on him to restore the Military Covenant, the mutual obligation binding the nation, armed forces and all servicemen. It means the Governments owes the armed forces they commit to military action a duty of care. Specifically, it requires that war is lawful, that the services have adequate resources to carry out the tasks the Government demands of them, and that they - and their families - have the right properly to be looked after in the event of injury or death. The families of servicemen and women killed in action, politicians, public figures and our readers have backed the letter, which can be read at independent. co.uk. Almost 500 have signed the letter so far, including Sean Connery, Michael Foot and Reg Keys. It will be presented to Downing Street on Tuesday, the fourth anniversary of the start of the invasion.
his two mates are in trouble having gone AWOL. one is long term sick - don't know anything about him so won't pass comment.Piotrowski, an Irish Guardsman, is serving seven years in jail after he was found in possession of a gun smuggled out of his barracks after a four-month tour of duty in Iraq. He has lost an appeal against his sentence.
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