Why War Medals Don’t Go Far Enough

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Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.

Our armed forces work tirelessly in service of the country, and those who go above and beyond in their service are rewarded with medals signifying their bravery. These medals bring great pride to those who wear them, and are inspiring to those around them.

However, the issuing of medals doesn’t go far enough, as they do not reward the everyday bravery shown by those dealing with the real and current problems faced by many veterans today. The Royal British Legion estimates that 6,000 veterans are homeless in the UK, and between 3%-8% (according to figures from the MoD and Napo respectively) of those in prison, on probation or on parole have a services background. 25,000 veterans received mental health treatment in 2016-2017, with the number of untreated cases estimated to take the total number of veterans with mental illnesses to 50,000. In particular, the percentage of veterans suffering from PTSD is on the rise, with a third of the 71 military personnel and veterans who in 2018 sadly took their own lives struggling with the disorder.  

These issues arise as those with a military background not only have to contend with coming to terms with the horrors and tragedies of war they have witnessed, but they must also deal with many stressful situations upon their return. Many struggle with financial issues, and can often face huge amounts of debt long-term due to difficulties with adapting to civilian work roles whilst facing the loss of the job many of them have had their whole working lives. They may also need to move house or face homelessness because of these financial issues, as well as changes in their relationships and the fact that military housing is too often required by current personnel to allow veterans to remain in their previous homes.

A further key issue is pride – many veterans are too proud to ask for help, or are concerned about how they would be perceived if their families and friends knew what they were experiencing. There is often a great pressure on soldiers to be strong and in no way sensitive or susceptible to what wrongly may be considered as inconsequential in comparison to what they have witnessed in conflict. 

Rather than solely issuing medals to reward military personnel for outstanding acts of bravery, we need to reward the smaller, but often just as challenging, acts of bravery they face in day-to-day civilian life by helping to remove the stigma around sharing their experiences and support them in coming forward and speaking out, rather than leaving them to suffer in silence. The bravery required to seek help must be rewarded with a greater availability and range of services providing the support necessary for equipping them to deal with the new set of difficulties they are confronted with at home and to help them transition into civilian life. After all, having the bravery to be your own hero is often most challenging of all.

If you or someone you know is affected by these issues, whether directly or indirectly, help and support is available from Veterans UK, SSAFA, the Royal British Legion and Combat Stress.

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Sub-Editor 2019-2020. Third year Philosophy and Politics student and cat lady with a true love of books.

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