Last weekend I attended remembrance services in both Illogan and Camborne where there was a record turnout and standing room only in the church. All of the various cadet and scout groups were out in force. I have noticed the attendance from all of these fantastic youth groups grow significantly year after year and it really bodes well for the future.
Next year will see the phased reduction British troops on active combat in Afghanistan the handover to a British trained Afghan Army is acclerated and due be completed by 2014. If the experience in Iraq is anything to go by, peace and normality can follow such a withdrawal of troops provided the groundwork has been done. After more than a decade of conflict, ending the mission in Afghanistan will be a relief for all. As well as the rising number of those killed in action, there have been thousands wounded and tens of thousands who suffer from some form of post traumatic stress and find it difficult to return to normal life.
I went to Afghanistan in 2006 when I worked for David Cameron and saw first-hand the extraordinary professionalism of our armed forces. While there, David Cameron was introduced to a specialist sniper in the army who had just completed his first tour of duty. He can’t have been much more than twenty years old but was earnest beyond his years. His job was to protect patrols from ambush using a long range rifle, particularly in built up areas where Apache attack helicopters could not be used. Later that day we were told in a matter-of-fact, army way that this young man had something they described as “twenty six confirmed kills.” I always remember the phrase because it drove home to me the extraordinary burden we put on our young soldiers. It is not just the risk they take but the things we expect them to do in our name. The then Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan showed me a photo of a platoon of 19 year old soldiers who were on a Chinook helicopter back from their first night time combat mission. They had a haunted look in their eyes and he explained that some soldiers can put things away in their heads better than others but it is never easy.
A couple of weeks ago I visited Surf Action which is a charity that tries to help combat veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of their work involves bringing people with similar experiences together socially along with their partners. They organise wildlife walks and surfing lessons, using nature to reconnect people with life. Like some other charities, they also use a range of other psychotherapies and forms of sensory or hypnotherapy to help former soldiers recover from the events that this decade of war has exposed them to. The work of groups like this is vital.
Surf Action is based at Unit 5, Heartlands, Pool. www.surfaction.co.uk. Telephone 01209 613300.