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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elaine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Sep 2017 at 8:39am
Soldier stricken with PTSD after examining hundreds of mutilated bodies has been 'abandoned by Army'

Gary Howard spent almost 22 years in the Army but he is now unable to work after falling ill from the stress of witnessing horrific post mortems

BySean Rayment,
21:04, 9 SEP 2017
Updated21:18, 9 SEP 2017

Former Royal Military Police forensic officer Gary said he went home 'smelling of death'

A soldier stricken by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after examining the mutilated bodies of hundreds of comrades today tells how the Ministry of Defence has abandoned him.

Gary Howard spent almost 22 years in the Army. But after falling ill from the stress of witnessing post mortems for four years, he is now unable to work.

He and his family survive on state benefits and a measly Army pension of just £36 a week while they have run up debts of more than £30,000.

The war veteran, who has considered suicide, told the Sunday People : “After serving Queen and country this is not how I expected my life to be.

"I thought if anything happened to me, the Army would look after me. I could not have been more wrong.”

Gary received just £6,000 in compensation for his mental scars. The worst physical injuries pay up to £570,000.

He said: “Veterans who suffer from PTSD are just as much part of the war wounded community as those who sustained physical injuries on the battlefield.

"But the compensation is capped at £6,000 for PTSD no matter how bad.

“If I’d suffered from physical injuries which prevented me from working, my pension and compensation would be far greater and I wouldn’t be in debt.

“The MoD doesn’t seem to understand that a mental wound can be just as debilitating as a physical one.

"It’s hard enough dealing with a mental condition which can drive you to suicide, without being forced to live in poverty.”

Gary, 48, was a Royal Military Police corporal responsible for repatriating the bodies of soldiers from battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan and attending their post mortems in the UK.

Between 2003 and 2006 he “processed” several hundred bodies, often forced to help pathologists search bodies for bullets and shrapnel.

Gary said: “Part of the job was to examine the bodies to see how they died.

“I had to follow bullet tracks through bodies and remove shrapnel. The wounds were terrible and the memories of often mutilated bodies have haunted me ever since.

"I’ve suffered constant nightmares and flashbacks. It has been a living hell.

“My only comfort is knowing that, by examining how the soldiers were killed, I could write reports to make improvements to body armour.

“Those would have saved the lives of other soldiers, so I take some comfort that those guys didn't die in vain”.

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When Gary left the Army he kept working in forensic science. After years of suffering in silence, he was eventually diagnosed with PTSD in 2013 and given his puny compensation.

"But his worsening mental state meant he was unable to continue in his field and was awarded £36-a-week disability pension.

Today he and wife Lyla survive on £704 Unemployment and Support Allowance and £400 Housing Benefit.

The couple also rely on financial help from their two children Finley, 24, and Tatty, 19. After £600 rent, Gary and Lyla survive on about £600 a month.

They spend £120 of that on food, £125 on gas and electricity and £100 on car tax and fuel.

Any money left goes towards paying off £2,000 in legal fees from their MoD battle and thousands owed to family and friends.

Lyla, 50, who has just been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, said: “We survive by counting every penny.

“We have a very understanding landlord so if we are late with the rent, he doesn’t fuss and the butcher allows us credit, else it would be impossible.

“Gary gave everything for his country and received little in return. It’s not the way veterans should be treated.”

In his last week in the Army, Gary had to deal with 22 dead soldiers, some of whom perished in the notorious RAF Nimrod air disaster of 2006.

The aircraft had been on a routine reconnaissance mission over Afghanistan when a fire broke out on board after inflight refuelling. Every member of the 14-man crew was killed.

An inquiry into the disaster, the greatest single loss of life in the entire war, found the fire had been caused by a series of maintenance blunders.

Gary, who began Army life in the Grenadiers, added: “That was one of the worst weeks in the job. We were dealing with multiple deaths.

“You would go home at the end of the day and you could still smell death.”

He said the MoD knew the nature of the work was having an impact on his team’s mental health. His boss had already developed PTSD doing the same work as Gary but he claims no counselling was offered.

Gary, who met Prince Charles in the course of his work, added: “The MoD have been useless. I had no counselling when I was involved in the repatriation of the dead, even though the MoD knew it was traumatic.

"My boss left because he could not cope, so they knew the work was damaging us.

“There were periods when dead soldiers were arriving every day, sometimes several times a day.”

He added: “The years since I was diagnosed have been very difficult and I have contemplated taking my own life on several occasions.

“If I had physical injuries I’m sure I would have been treated better. The MoD says that it looks after veterans with PTSD but that’s simply not true.”

Three months after he left the Army Gary’s sister, Staff Sergeant Sharron Elliot, was killed by a bomb in southern Iraq. Again Gary was offered no advice or counselling.

But despite his challenges, Gary is determined to make his life a success.

He has enrolled in a chemistry university course and hopes to return to forensics.

He said: “My PTSD means I will never be able to work at a crime scene but I hope one day I will be able to do lab work.”






































































Edited by Elaine - 12 Sep 2017 at 9:34am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elaine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Sep 2017 at 9:30am

'I walked out covered in a young girl's blood': one soldier's struggle with PTSD, and the Ministry of Defence


'They don’t care. The fact that you have fought for your country, done three combat tours, that counts for nothing.'
Dean Upson Former Corporal in 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD) |
Sunday 21 August 2016 23:00 BST|

The Independent Online

          
Dean Upson started suffering PTSD while serving with a medical emergency reaction team in Afghanistan

They handed her to me, a young girl, four or five maybe, to hold in my arms.

She was a mess, a lot of abdominal injuries – one casualty among many hit by a suicide bomb in an Afghan market place.

She didn’t make a sound, just tucked her arms into my body armour and held on, like a limpet.

I was a non-believer in PTSD - but the Marines taught me better

I talked to her, made funny noises, did whatever I could to reassure her, although I’m sure she didn’t understand a word. And when we landed at Camp Bastion, because I had carried her back like this, I went into the trauma room with her.

I don’t know how many injured local nationals there were, but walking into that room was like walking into an abattoir.

She wouldn’t let go of me. They had to pop my body armour off before they could prise her off.

I walked out of there covered in a young girl’s blood.

Someone once explained to me that PTSD is like a pint glass slowly being filled.

I had been on TELIC I, the invasion of Iraq. It was war. It was what you expected: “We’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys, let’s go.”

But the pint glass gets a little fuller.

I went to Afghanistan, 2006, Helmand – very kinetic, a stand-up fight, firing your weapon, coming under fire. It is addictive, very addictive, exhilarating.

But the pint glass is filling up the whole time.

And in late 2008, on my second Afghan tour, the pint glass was spilling over.

I was attached to a MERT (Medical emergency reaction team), as part of an explosive ordnance disposal unit, in case IED [improvised explosive device] or mine clearance was needed when the helicopter got to the casualty. No such clearance work was ever needed. Instead, I was in the Chinook, doing whatever I could to help the miracle workers, the incredible medical guys: holding hands, pushing fluids into people. Plugging holes.
I remember a young female American soldier. She was so badly burned that we only knew she was a woman when we noticed she was wearing a bra. Sometimes, you’d go out on six or seven jobs in a single day.

Two days before I left for Christmas R&R [rest and recuperation], we had a young Commando with a gunshot wound to the head. Incredibly, when we got to him, he was still alive. We dropped him off at Kandahar, but when we landed at Bastion, we were informed he had died. I walked into my tent covered head to toe in blood, slumped in my chair, and wept.

That had been my staff sergeant’s first medical evacuation job. He asked if they were all that bad. I told him that was one of the better ones. But it was the one that finished me.

The PTSD started manifesting itself while I was still on my tour. I told no one. I didn’t want to be the lunatic in the troop. Weakness in the forces, you don’t do it. And as an old-style NCO [non-commissioned officer], a leader, you can’t do it. You just try to crack on as best you can. Until you are in complete crisis.

Which is why, five to 10 years from now, there’s going to be a tidal wave of guys like me, coming forward saying they are suffering.

And there are more psychological injuries than anything else. Hundreds of guys were made amputees in Afghanistan – a large number – but how many guys are out there with psychological injuries? The psychological injuries are the worst. They say that more Falklands veterans killed themselves than guys who died in combat.

If you’ve had your leg blown off, you can get a prosthetic leg. If you have got PTSD, what can they do about your head?

Back in England, I was all over the place: nightmares, flashbacks, crying like a little girl with a scraped knee.

I made two attempts on my life in 2009. I’ve made three suicide attempts altogether. You don't sleep, you feel hopeless, reliving stuff you don’t want to think about. You want it to stop. Suicide is something I think about daily.

I was put on sick leave, but in June 2011 I was medically discharged.

I’m 36 now. I’d gone into the recruiting office when I was 17 and a half, on a lunch break from working as a builder’s labourer. My dad had done it, my granddad had done it. I thought I’d give it a go – even if I really wanted to be an archaeologist.

I loved it. You know what? You get to do a lot of good. In Kosovo I helped build and run a refugee camp for thousands of refugees.

And it’s the guys around you, the camaraderie, that makes the British Army the best in the world. No matter how bad things are, they’ll always crack a joke. And last week, when they found out I was having a wobble – bad flashbacks – the guys from my old unit were phoning me up, from Malawi one of them. The support they have offered me has been amazing.

But the senior officers, I’ve known some who can reel off the names of those who got physical injuries, but haven’t got a clue who the guys with PTSD are.

And the politicians … Yes, every soldier signs on that dotted line wanting to go to war, to fight the bad guys and feel what war is like, whatever they may say to the contrary. But the politicians who order them to fight, they’ve no real grasp of the mental strain involved. And how many of their sons and daughters do you see going to war?

It’s the same with society at large. They’ll see the guy on crutches, the guy in a wheelchair and understand. But then they’ll look at you and say “What’s wrong with him? He looks fine.” If they can’t see it, they’re not interested.

Nor is anyone involved with Armed Forces compensation. The visible injuries that they can’t argue with, the lost limbs, they will pay for straight away. But the non-visible injuries, they don’t want to give you a thing. They will fight and question everything. They will even try everything they can to discharge you before you get your diagnosis of PTSD.

I’ve known guys discharged on the grounds of “personality defect” or “burn out”. Because they didn’t get their diagnosis of PTSD before they were discharged, they got nothing. My initial compensation payment was £3,000 – a joke. With that and a medical discharge payment based on my length of service I was left with £30,000.

£30,000. After 14 years’ service, tours of Iraq and Afghanistan and an entire life messed up by PTSD. What was I supposed to do? It wasn’t as if I could go into full-time employment in another job in my state. I tried. I lasted three months.

I would phone the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme in tears, explaining my situation, saying “Look, I’ve tried to kill myself.” I was just told: “We’ll pass it on.”

They don’t care. The fact that you have fought for your country, done three combat tours, that counts for nothing. You have to fight for everything. Which I did. I eventually got the maximum award – more than £160,000. But it took four years, and the involvement of lawyers.

Yes, at least I have my money now. But I would rather have my career and, above all, my health. So why am I telling you all this, why am I reliving everything? Because I want people to know this stuff is happening.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme had awarded more than £600m since 2005 and that service personnel were encouraged to submit claims so they could be properly considered: “We are absolutely committed to the mental health of our armed forces and this increase in successful claims shows our campaigns are encouraging those who need help to come forward to get the compensation they deserve.”

The young Afghan girl survived.

   
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Edited by Elaine - 12 Sep 2017 at 9:40am
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About 30 jobs are at risk at Combat Stress.

More than two dozen people have already confirmed that they will be marching on the Audley Court treatment centre on Friday, and more are expected to turn out on the day.

The job losses are part of a five-year restructuring plan which, the charity said, would “offer greater flexibility and accessibility to treatment so veterans can be supported more quickly”.

But veterans who have used the service feel that the loss of the service's residential programmes could damage lives in the future.

Among those leading the campaign is Pete Neale, who said it was important to act before nothing else could be done.

Nearly 1,500 people have joined the private Save Audley Court Combat Stress Facebook group since it was founded less than a fortnight ago.

"I'm feeling good about the support we've had," he said.

"I just want the truth to the questions and see if we can move forward in the right way before it's too late for some on these veterans.

"They all deserve the right to the right treatment that is safe for them and their families."

Mr Neale said that he thought more solutions should be found to help offset the cost of treatment.

"I just don't think Combat Stress, Sue Freeth and her staff have tried hard enough for more funding from the Ministry of Defence or the government," he said.

"Our group of veterans have come up with so many ideas that they are willing to do to help, like pay for meals, clean their own rooms and corridors or do a online shop for art work to be sold."

The group will meet at the car park on Broadway at 10am on Friday. Around 45 minutes later they will march towards Audley Court, where they are expected to arrive at about 11.15am.

A party will then go inside to meet with Su Freeth. A briefing outside is expected to take place at around 1pm.

At 2pm the veterans will move onto The Pheasant in Upper Bar to plan their next move.

The march is being held in opposition to major changes announced by Combat Stress last month.

Documents filed with the Charity Commission showed that Combat Stress had a deficit of £3.6m in the financial year ending March 31, 2016, generating £13m and spending £16.6m.

Ms Freeth said that Audley Court would "remain an important hub for the services we deliver to veterans across Wales and the Midlands".





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Read more at https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/local-hubs/telford/newport/2017/10/12/combat-stress-army-veterans-set-for-newport-march-against-charity-cuts/#rSA8YFqzJ3iBRT7g.99

Edited by Elaine - 12 Oct 2017 at 9:03am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elaine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Oct 2017 at 3:37pm

A war hero awarded the Military Cross today sensationally claims Army bosses covered up his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for EIGHT YEARS.

Sean Jones says he was diagnosed by a military doctor, but never told.

He was sent back to the front line in Afghanistan – the cause of searing nightmares that tore his life apart.

The Colour Sergeant says he finally discovered the truth six days ago, after contemplating suicide.

Sean, 30, says a GP accessed his records and found he had been ­diagnosed by an Army medic in 2009.

Now, in an unprecedented step as a serving member of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, Sean is speaking out – fearing other soldiers are in the same position.

The father of two suspects many soldiers stay trapped “in a wheel of death” rather than speak out and risk losing their career.

Speaking from his home in ­Folkestone, Kent, Sean says: “I was a poster boy for my regiment because I won the Military Cross and was very good at what I did.

“All the bad stuff was ignored by the Army. As far as they were concerned I was a Military Cross winner and that was all that was important.

“Now I’m left wondering how could the Army send me back to ­Afghanistan knowing I had PTSD ?”

Sean, who signed up at 16, has been broken by years of nightmares and flashbacks following three tours of duty in Afghanistan.

Over the summer he started to struggle with emotional issues. His GP put him on sick leave and referred him for weekly sessions with a psychiatrist in Woolwich, South East London.

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He says that during an appointment four weeks ago he was told he had PTSD. Then, last Monday, he set out to end his life. He revealed: “I was going to hang myself and found the tree where I was going to do it.

“But a voice said ‘Think of your family’.

“My wife found me. She was shocked but also angry. She said I was being selfish and she’s right.”

What happened next hit Sean hard.

When he went to see his GP she checked computerised Army medical records. Sean says she found he first exhibited signs of PTSD in 2009, after his second tour in Afghanistan.

Sean went on: “I was staggered when I saw the notes. No one told me about PTSD.

“My mental health condition now was 100% preventable in my opinion.

"My records show I was exhibiting PTSD symptoms in 2009 and not told about it. I then deployed to Afghanistan again in 2011, still suffering the same problems.

"How could the Army send me back to Afghanistan knowing I had PTSD? My chain of command could see I had issues but nothing was done. And I know I am not the only one.”

'When you leave, you're on your own': Pal of Terry Butcher's tragic former soldier son says Army is failing traumatised veterans

Legal experts told the Sunday Mirror that an immediate referral should be made to the Department of Community Mental Health. Guidelines state doctors “must give patients the information they want or need to know in a way they can understand... unless you believe giving it would cause the patient serious harm”.

If information is withheld the reason must be included on file.

Sean is furious he was never told. He said: “I believe I would be a different person now. I wish I’d asked more questions. But I was a young soldier whose focus was on serving my country. I’d never heard of PTSD.”

The case comes days after Captain Chris Butcher, the son of former England soccer captain Terry Butcher, was found dead at home aged just 35 after struggling to cope with life after serving in Afghanistan.

Sean says that since 2009 he’s been suffering anger issues, nightmares, flashbacks and excessive drinking.

He was arrested twice for assault and his marriage was blighted.

Sean said his personality changed after he was blown up in Afghanistan in 2009, while a Lance Corporal in his regiment’s 1st Battalion.

He was responsible for clearing a safe lane for a convoy through a section of the Helmand desert.

A hidden bomb detonated as a troop carrier drove over it. Sean suff-ered severe shrapnel wounds to his back and legs. The vehicle, carrying eight soldiers, burst into flames.

Sean said: “The driver was being burned and was screaming. I was semi-conscious with two very inexperienced lads looking at me wondering what to do. ­Eventually help arrived.”

The driver was badly wounded, while Sean needed two operations.

A few months later he returned to Afghanistan, desperate not to let anyone down.

He admitted: “I said I was fitter than I was. Physically I wasn’t up to it and was struggling mentally. After the first patrol back I was almost in tears – I was in so much pain.”

After returning to his barracks in Germany, Sean’s mental state declined.

'Demons are winning': Heartbreaking last letter of traumatised soldier who killed himself after he was 'failed by MoD'

His wife Amanda said: “One night Sean grabbed me around the throat and lifted me off the floor. I was terrified and told him he needed help.”

Sean was seen by an Army doctor. He added: “The doctor arranged for me to see a psychiatric nurse and had written on my notes I was exhibiting symptoms of acute PTSD – but this wasn’t explained to me. There was no mention of PTSD. I had seven sessions which were just chats really. Nothing more was said.”

Sean returned to Afghanistan for a third time in 2011. By then his PTSD was worse, but he excelled in his post.

When his patrol was ambushed he ordered three men to fix bayonets before breaking cover and leading them across open ground raked by enemy fire.

The speed, aggression and audacity of his response caused the insurgents to fall back in disarray.

Sean was awarded the Military Cross and received it from Prince Charles. But the nightmares worsened. He went on: “It should have been clear I had PTSD. But most soldiers won’t speak out.

“In my experience anyone who opens up is called a wet blanket or jelly head.

“You can kiss your career goodbye. I spent 14 years in my battalion and no one contacted me to ask how I am. It’s as if I had become an embarrassment.”

Sean is having treatment and a ­decision on his future will be made later. Now he is urging former soldier Prince Harry, who has spoken of the need to help PTSD sufferers, to go further.

He said: “If he was to call on the MoD to conduct a detailed study of PTSD, that would have a huge impact.”

Amanda, 30, said that in nine years as an Army wife she never got advice on coping with a partner back from war.

She said: “I didn’t even know what PTSD was until Sean’s GP talked about it last week. I lived with his nightmares for years. He often wakes up screaming. I’ve seen him clawing at his face while he was asleep. It’s terrifying.”

Military legal case expert Hilary ­Meredith said: “The MoD owe a duty to all personnel. They failed miserably here.”

Human Rights barrister Simon McKay added: “This case shows the military still hasn’t grappled with PTSD. Veterans are being let down.”




An MoD spokesman said: “We are committed to the mental fitness of our personnel, having launched our new strategy and partnered with the Royal Foundation to tackle mental health issues head on. We encourage anyone who is suffering to come forward and get the support they deserve.”

A ministry source added: “If someone showed signs of illness we would offer support, a formal assessment if needed and treatment. This was available.

“We only deploy individuals in roles they are assessed to be militarily and medically competent to carry out.”








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Edited by Elaine - 22 Oct 2017 at 3:40pm
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