NICK HERBERT: Veterans must receive support they deserve

Last week in the House of Commons the Prime Minister paid tribute to Sergeant Matt Tonroe of the Parachute Regiment who was killed on March 29.

Nick Herbert
Nick Herbert

This was the first death of British service personnel in Syria since an international coalition launched operations against the Daesh, or ISIL, four years ago.

As the Prime Minister said, Sergeant Tonroe, who was only 33, ‘fought to protect British values, our freedoms and to keep this country safe’.

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Since 9/11, our engagement in the war on terror, Iraq and Afghanistan has cost the lives of 1,145 service personnel and another 288 civilians. But there were also 591 very serious or serious injuries of service personnel in Afghanistan alone.

We owe a great debt to our veterans, and should make sure that they receive the support they deserve. The Government has considerably stepped up in this regard, introducing the Armed Forces Covenant in 2011, and is committed to improving the co-ordination of government services to veterans, including housing, employment and mental health services.

But government is not alone in providing help. On Sunday I was delighted to attend a St George’s Day fundraising lunch in Arundel in aid of Help for Heroes.

This wonderful charity does so much to support our veterans, helping those who have been wounded, injured or sick whilst serving in the Armed Forces, as well as veterans who struggle with anxiety, depression and anger. It also supports their families.

At the lunch on Sunday, which was attended by 80 guests and raised more than £4,000 for the charity, its organiser Andy Batty quoted some startling statistics.

More than three quarters of a million people served as regulars in the British armed forces between 1991 and 2014, and at least 66,000 of these need support either now, or in the future. That is one in 11 veterans from this period alone who, in the words of the charity, need a helping hand.

And of course there are still many living veterans from earlier periods, including those who fought in the Second World War. In 2015 there were an estimated 2.5 million armed forces veterans, over half of them aged 75 or over.

As Help for Heroes says, no matter when someone served, those prepared to put their lives second deserve a second chance at life.

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