Army vet wants to see more supports for retired staff
The lack of supports for former members of the Defence Forces make them vulnerable to homelessness and other social problems, according to a Mullingar army veteran.
Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner at the raising of a flag honouring former members of the Defence Forces that will fly above Aras an Chontae throughout July, Jadotville veteran Tom Gunn said that more needs to be done to help ex-service personnel.
“For instance there was no post trauma counselling when we came home. From the company that was in Jadotville five people committed suicide, marriages broke up, fellas went off the rails because they weren't looked after.
“After a traumatic experience on the battle field or while peacekeeping where you'd be shot at or abused, when you come home you cannot cope.
“The British have great facilities [for veterans] and here they are catching up but they are slow. They just want us to fade away and die like old soldiers,” said Mr Gunn, who is the chairman of the Mullingar branch of ONE, the organisation for ex-service personnel.
The flag flying above the headquarters of Westmeath County Council features the fuschia emblem, which is the Irish Defence Forces' equivalent of the British armed forces' poppy and is used by ONE as a symbol of remembrance.
The month of July is a busy one for local members of ONE. On July 14 many will travel to the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham for the National Day of Commemoration's principal ceremony which will remember all of the Irish men and women who died in past conflicts or while serving with the UN.
Later in the month, on July 27, ONE members will be out in force in Mullingar to raise funds for the organisation's annual Fuschia appeal. The appeal helps fund ONE's charitable efforts throughout the year including the three hostels it runs in Athlone, Dublin and Letterkenny for ex-service personnel who are homeless.
“It [July 27] is the equivalent of Poppy Day in England.
“At the three homes we bring in soldiers who have fallen on hard times. We bring them in and try and get them back to their former selves and get them jobs, if possible. All the funds raised in the Fuschia appeal go to the upkeep of the hostels.
“The government help us out but we are also dependent on the public, who are great. They see the things we've done overseas. We are the best peace keepers in the world, the fighting Irish,” Mr Gunn said.