An Army Veteran’s View on UKIP Military Policy
Lee Harris is a former soldier in our armed forces, having served in Afghanistan and Canada. He was permanently based in Germany from 2009 until he left the service in September of this year. Lee now serves as YI County Chairman for Durham.
Now I am of the belief that if you want to target a set demographic with policies built to better their lives, then you should actively involve those who you wish to appeal to, and it pleases me no end, to have been asked to write this article on UKIP policies for the military due to my background. I have served with the army in locations the world over, with the highlight of my career being given the opportunity to serve in and help stabilise a war ravaged country, in Afghanistan.
UKIP have stated that they will honour the military covenant unlike consecutive governments in recent times. To do this, they have set out ways and means of giving those who gave the most for not only their country’s national security, but global security too, by giving back to them something that will go a long way to showing the nations gratitude.
Having seen firsthand the brutal way that the Conservative led coalition have hacked into the manpower of H.M. Armed Forces by way of redundancies, effectively reducing this once global military powerhouse to nothing more than a militia, it pleases me to say that UKIP have vowed to fully resource our assets and personnel. This would include providing the vitally important, life-saving, mission critical equipment which we all know the UK military lacked when it invaded Iraq in 2003. By upgrading existing equipment and making sure it is available to all military units, UKIP would make the UK is a force to be reckoned with once more. More importantly, it would reduce casualty and fatality numbers.
Having seen the aftermath of IED attacks on personnel, UKIPs policy to introduce a Veteran’s Service Card which would ensure that they are fast-tracked for mental health care and services, if needed, is one of the best policies I have seen from any political party. This is a policy that really strikes a chord with me, as I personally have suffered with severe depression and PTSD which left me on the verge of suicide, since returning from Afghanistan. There should be nothing that hinders or prevents service men, women and veterans alike from receiving the best professional help possible when needed. Ultimately this policy would help to keep service personnel and veterans from straying down the path of substance misuse, both legal and illegal, as they would have the best care possible at their fingertips, and would help to prevent homelessness amongst ex-service personnel. I have seen this happen on many occasions, and I personally drank myself into a psychiatric unit as I, like many veterans, refused to accept that I was suffering with mental health issues due to service, mainly because of the stigma that is attached to mental health illnesses. I would like to see more awareness programmes set up in partnership with the Veteran’s Service Card being rolled out as the two would work hand in hand together.
Over 30% of London’s homeless are veterans! This is a national disgrace, and UKIP are the only party that have said they will change the points system for social housing to ensure that ex service men and women are prioritised. A veteran who is homeless, generally tends to have suffered or suffers with depression, PTSD and will most likely also have an adjustment disorder which have all contributed to him or her becoming homeless. By changing how the system works, and by prioritising ex service men and women, this policy will effectively help toward giving a person a fresh start in the civilian world. It will help to prevent the majority of veterans from turning to alcohol and substance misuse, and dependency which is quite often caused by depression and other mental illnesses which can see them made homeless. By involving local authorities, veteran’s services, and social housing services, along with the promise of a job in the police force, prison service or border force, UKIP will be keeping their promise to veterans by allowing them to have the best possible start to a life outside of the military. This brings me to my next point.
A great multitude of ex forces personnel like me, join the military from school with little or no educational qualifications. We wind up being employed in roles which do not require a person to be intellectually gifted. Whilst there is a great education programme within the military which aims at helping personnel gain qualifications which are acknowledged by civilian companies for when they leave their respective service, they do not in my opinion prepare a person for a role on ‘the outside’. Having a policy like UKIP do, which guarantees a person a job in the police force, prison service or border force when 12 years of service in the military has been completed, will be beneficial to thousands of service men and women who would otherwise struggle to find gainful employment. As we know, unemployment among the veteran community is sky rocketing, and this policy will not only create jobs for those who have given the most to this country, but it would also help to create a more peaceful and safer environment for the general population to live in. Having recently left the military in September 2014, I am struggling to find any employment at all and the possibility of a guaranteed job in one of the aforementioned sectors would undoubtedly have changed my mind on whether to leave, or stay in the military until my 12 year point. This would be the case for many thousands more. Not only would this boost border enforcement along with the police and prison services it would also help in the retention of valuable and experienced personnel within the military. Experience harbours knowledge. Having this knowledge kept in the service for that extra few years would help to make the military a much more professional force, as the knowledge and experience the older men and women own, would be passed down to the younger generations of recruits coming up through the ranks.
Having served with men and women from nearly all Commonwealth countries, UKIP policy to extend all entitlements to them would solidify the United Kingdom’s position as a world leader, by showing all other nations that we not only look after our own, but we also look after those who wish to serve Her Majesty the Queen. That it does not matter what their nationality, race, colour or religion is. We would be saying thank you to the many hundreds of thousands of Commonwealth personnel who have left their home countries in far flung corners of the world, such as Nepal, Fiji, Ghana and Kenya, that their service to help protect the United Kingdom, from the ever present threat of domestic and international terrorism, and other nations around the world, was not in vain, but that it was appreciated. UKIP would show that all are appreciated and would not cast any former member of the military aside, like the past and present crop of elitist Westminster politicians have done for many decades, and still continue to do so today.
UKIP is the only party that will deliver what it promises. UKIP can and will make ‘cast-iron’ guarantees, because UKIP, unlike the other parties, will not renege on its promises. UKIP is the only party that will truly honour the military covenant. Other parties have paid lip service to it in the past, but none have ever followed through on it. That is evident when you look at the streets of our capital city and other major towns and cities, the length and breadth of the country, and you see the scores of homeless ex service men and women, or when you compare the suicide rates of ex service men and women to civilians. My brothers in arms have been failed time and time again by establishment figures and politicians, whose only experience of military life is when they are invited to watch a military parade. It is plain for all to see that the legacy parties have not only failed the military and veterans, but they quite frankly, couldn’t give a stuff, sat in their ivory towers in the Westminster bubble. UKIP is the only viable solution for a well equipped, well looked after military force and a well looked after society of veterans.
Chairman, Young Independence County Durham