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The Army of Angels: War wounds aren’t necessarily physical

Steve Valentine
gulf war 300x225 The Army of Angels: War wounds aren’t necessarily physical

(Getty Images)

My name is Stephen Valentine and I was born in November 1969. At the age of 18, I decided to enlist in the British Army as a driver in the Royal Corps of Transport (RCT). I completed my basic training in February 1988 and was then posted to eight Squadron, 27 Regiment RCT at Buller Barracks in Aldershot.

In November 1990, 27 Regt was given formal notice of its deployment to Saudi Arabia in anticipation of taking part in operations during the first Gulf war. The regiment finally deployed on active service in January 1991.

Only days after arriving, our holding location came under attack from Scud missiles and shortly thereafter we relocated to our new home in the desert. Our tour of duty in the Gulf lasted approximately four months and covered the ground offensive in February of that year and the eventual liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi forces.

A few short weeks after returning home for rest and recuperation, we resumed our normal duties in Aldershot. For a long period after the end of the war many personnel suffered major problems due to their experiences and as a result were summarily discharged from the forces. I stayed with the Army until February 1992 at which point I decided to purchase my own discharge.

With no immediate help at hand after discharge, I moved with my family to Manchester, staying with my mother. Things didn’t go well for me – all the signs were there to see but somehow I missed them. Eventually, after a very self-destructive period, I was diagnosed with depression and placed on a cocktail of anti-depressants, which did little to relieve my symptoms or improve my situation. My problems persisted over the next few years and through contact with army friends with whom I had served, I came to realise that I wasn’t the only one to be suffering in this way.

The team from Combat Stress visited me on a number of occasions and finally offered me a place at their Audley Court treatment centre in Newport. This proved to be a turning point in my life. I was given the opportunity to meet a wide variety of ex-service personnel who had served during every conflict since the second World War. At the time I was under the misapprehension that I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), having being diagnosed as such by a specialist sent by the War Pensions Agency. Very quickly I understood from talking to those around me that, while I had a depressive illness, it wasn’t PTSD. And, more importantly, I recognised that I still needed help.

During my stay at the centre I met many people, including a WWII veteran who was one of Sir Archibald McIndoe’s skin graft patients (also proudly know as guinea pigs). He had been attending the centre almost from the day it was opened and returns each year for rehab and respite care. Another resident I met served in the Falklands War. He had found it almost impossible to adjust to civilian life, couldn’t hold down a job and had become a virtual recluse, preferring to stay in his home. I discovered that he had very few of the necessities of life in his flat to make his life more bearable. This touched me in such a way that I determined to make the lives of such people better in any way I could.

The result was the Army Of Angels charity, which was set up to assist former, and in some cases serving, members of the forces, with the basic necessities of life after, or in preparation for, their discharge. We want to provide items to help improve their situation, whatever it might be. We are also able to help the families of injured service personnel by offering respite breaks in our holiday homes and to assist the families of those personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. The Army of Angels is committed to providing whatever help it can, and its ability to assist is only constrained by the funds available to help it meet the needs of injured forces personnel and their families.

We issued our plea this December to call veterans forward who may be suffering, just as I did, from either physical or psychological injuries as a result of UK conflict. Wounds aren’t necessarily physical, and the effects of both can cause veterans to struggle to make ends meet. The Army of Angels charity is here to help anyone suffering to improve their situation, and to remind all that no one should suffer in silence; particularly after fighting for their country.

For more information about the Army of Angels visit www.armyofangels.org.uk

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  • Pacificweather

    You did not have PTSD, just depression. You were ill like many civilians get ill. So what has this to do with being a soldier? If it is a soldiers’ self help group that is a good idea but why are you telling civilians about it? I think more explanation is needed.

  • Greven

    Quite rightly too. During WW2 hundreds of US bombers landed in
    Sweden and Switzerland an investigation by the US air force revealed
    that there was nothing wrong the crews, they just didn’t want to die.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001564372569 Michael Rundle

    Because soldiers might read this paper and see this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ignas-Bednarczyk/100001526647108 Ignas Bednarczyk

    Its a bit late to be announcing what people have known since World War One.

  • Tom Porter

    War is an obscene form of madness itself. The movies glamorize it. For the normal majority, killing goes against every human instinct – hence the long & hard training. Also, the human psyche cannot long withstand the constant fear of imminent, violent death. Modern air transport allows troops to be constantly recycled back into battle zones, unlike the old days when battles were interrupted by days or weeks of marching. Soldiers see things that we civilians are shielded from by the media (they might upset us). Even the toughest heroes who survive carry mental scars for life. Soldiers don’t like & don’t start wars – that’s done by gung-ho pols & armchair warriors.

  • Elven

    Greven the difference is that in WW2 the airmen were probably conscripts, Wars fought by the UK since the late 50’s (?) have been fought by people who volunteer to kill.

  • andybbn

    “Soldiers see things that we civilians are shielded from by the media (they might upset us).”

    I’ve always felt the media should show war the way it is. If they did, we may be less prone to support the next crusade by some vote-seeking, ego-maniac PM. It annoys me no end when the BBC refuses to show images because they are “too shocking”.

  • a_no_n

    unfortunatly mr Valentine these days ATOS are the only people allowed to claim what is and isn’t injury…And if you can’t see it they certainly won’t spot it. Good luck, i’d be proud if some of my Tax money could go toward the benefits designed to help people in your condition! This country needs to seriously change it’s attitute toward the disabled and the sick, none of them chose their affliction, they shouldn’t be punished for it!

  • a_no_n

    Michael, how rude Can’t you see that Pacificweather is using his powers of judgement to determine whether the chap has PTSD or not?

    I got PTSD and all i ever did was work for too long on a few really bad nightclub doors…So i think it’s quite possible the author of the article has PTSD if he had &*%#ing rockets thrown at him.. his doctor told him so…that’s normally a good indicator too, but i don’t have the benefit of Pacificweathers judgemental scorn so what do I know lol.

  • Tom Porter

    AFAIK, WWII aircrew were volunteers who could opt for ground duties. No, most service personnel volunteer only to serve, not necessarily ‘to kill’. The post-WWII wheeze was that strong armed forces would prevent wars. Tragically, the old Nazis have crept back & taken over NATO. It has been ‘magically’ transformed from a defensive pact into a Blitzkrieg offensive force. ‘Peace’ has been perverted into apparently endless warfare. Don’t blame the people in uniform. Civilians have rights & votes. What did you do about all this?


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