In this month of November, we shall have the usual Remembrance Ceremonies, remembering those who lost their lives or just as importantly, their health.
Now there are probably a lot of Pensioners who are pacifists at heart, indeed probably conscientious objectors. One cannot quarrel with a sincerely held view that to fight is morally wrong. Equally, it is as well to remember that those who have gone to fight have done so because they sincerely believe that that is the best way to protect their fellow countrymen and the country itself.
There are of course, many reasons why a young man (or, nowadays, woman) joins up. Often, because the prospects offer a career or skill which in civilian life may be expensive or difficult to come by so a career in one of the forces seems a good solution. One GLPA member (now sadly passed away) always said that the first overcoat he possessed was that issued by the Navy! One must acknowledge that a regular soldier or any other serviceman who joined up, is or was at least looking for an honest paying occupation. I know that in the 20's this was the reason why two of my uncles joined the navy. It offered a regular wage and good training.
So when any serviceman suffers horrific injuries, the country should recognize that a real sacrifice has been made and should show its gratitude in a decent honourable manner. We should not turn our backs on these young men, no matter what motives or career advancement or ideals (mistaken or otherwise) they had but went forward with courage and an expectation of a severely disciplined life. The majority of these do, what all of us do, their best.
So what happens to them when the worst happens? How are they looked after? I quote from a National Newspaper on the treatment of a young soldier. I will forego the hype of "hero" or "Victim" but merely repeat the information provided in the report.
"....was hit by two rocket propelled grenades a fortnight after turning 18. The blast cost the soldier.....the use of his left leg, wrecked his right hand and caused horrendous internal damage.
He caught MRSA twice and C. DIFF at a UK hospital and has to walk with a stick. However....he had been told he was not disabled enough to receive council tax disability benefit."
Does this surprise you? Perhaps it is wrong to use his plight as an illustration of how this State treats its vulnerable and needy for is his treatment not typical of the treatment meted out to many servicemen and worse, to the servicemen of the previous two World Wars?
Parades are alright and it is fitting that we should set aside a day and ceremonies for those men and women who gave their lives and good health for us, but it is not enough. If someone got badly hurt protecting me, I'd not be able to rest if I didn't do something to help that person afterwards.
The Ghurkas have been treated shamefully, and so have the Japanese Prisoners of War. Likewise, the miners and Merchant Navy victims were left to manage their problems on their own.
So we Pensioners should not really be surprised that our pensions are now worth less than they were in 1908.
England expects! Well so far as the horrifically wounded and maimed are concerned, we expected and we got, so we should go all out to see that these brave men are never ever neglected just as honest pensioners should never be neglected. Lets remember it is the money which the pensioners and others of this country had taken in taxes which provided the arms and slush funds, and this same money should cushion the pensioners against poverty and provide assistance for the wounded ex-servicemen and women. If we don't honour our debts properly, there may never be a volunteer to ignore in the future. We should always remember to say thanks.