Vet Voices: From the UK, Part III

Today we continue and end the conversation with Carl Thomas, a RAF veteran who has been kind enough to let me pepper him with so many questions. Today, the discussion is politics, and the state of veteran’s affairs in the UK.

?: Now, Carl, I asked Qui this, and she led the conversation into a place I hadn’t anticipated, so I want to get your take on it. What do you see as the biggest obstacle to new veterans of the UK military? I know there are so many to choose from.

Carl: The state of my country. We now have an uncontrolled migrant workforce from Europe. They work cheap. They don’t answer back, and they come highly qualified. Take a grunt, non-technical, up against that, no contrast; the migrant worker wins every time. Such is the politics and big business of the UK.

?: Qui brought up the same thing. So, largely, veteran’s obstacles are not only so harrowing because of the governments’ failure to plan for its’ veterans, but also because of their unchecked non-management of immigration issues, in your opinion?

Carl: Having said that, though, a veteran can get a “trade training” when coming out. Yet, is that enough? Probably not; big business is still looking for cheap labor, NOT those who served, UNLESS it is in a security role. Police, prison wardens, GCHQ, PC’s, even. Most end up self-employed, some are lucky and just quit for happier lands. As a new vet, they tend to get accepted into foreign lands a lot easier than most. You’ve got to remember, though, my feedback comes from a lot of ex who have fallen (so to speak.) It’s tough out there now for everyone, YET, all I am concerned about is my fellow vets. Thus, my opinion is clouded.

?: And that is precisely why your opinion is valuable, and needs to have a sounding board, Carl. Let me throw another question at you. If you could wave a magic wand, and wield all the power necessary to actually effect change in your government, what would be the one thing you would do that would have the greatest impact on service members and veterans?

Carl: Shoot the politicians and put the country under military orders (and note that is not martial law.) All the PC, and migrant workers stuff is bad for serving and vets alike. I’m afraid I see civilian government as bad, and only out to feather their nests. There is a loss of respect for “Queen and country” and honest things. See, I am too old for learning new things!

?: You also noted in one response that the UK has never taken care of its’ vets in an adequate manner. With the two princes being so adamant about serving in Afghanistan, and being the media darlings that they are, do you anticipate any changes in the care of vets, once William assumes the throne? Or, are they simply puppet heads, with no real power to evoke any sort of change?

Carl: No, absolutely no difference. It’s not royalty that run the show, it’s the lowest form of life, politicians.

?: I noticed at several points, you referred to your fellow service men as the “brethren”. This signifies to me a good deal of respect and esprit-de-corps. Did this serve you well during your time in, to feel connected to people you respected? How about after you got out? Did you maintain that connection to anyone?

Carl: Everyone is your bro in green, blue, or even gray. See a fight, and it is a bro, you wade in, no questions asked. Someone needed help, you helped. That extended to family/dependents. Did that serve me well? Of course.

?: How did others react to you, when you separated from service?

Carl: I’d lost my family. On handing in my ID card, being signed off base, and driving out, I felt a profound sense of loss. Forces guys I knew were always in a hurry, and such was the nature of my work, they couldn’t discuss what was going on. Finally, as they got posted away, there was nothing left.

My Dad, who was still alive then, knew EXACTLY how I felt and we spent long hours talking about it. Like myself, he never got over no longer being part of a family.

My soon to be ex-wife went ballistic, realizing that I would be under her feet the whole time.

My son thought it novel to be taken to school by his father.

Apart from that, I’d occasionally get a nod from someone I didn’t know. Occasionally, they would ask, “been out long?” It takes ex-mil to recognize ex-mil.

?: What do you think is the most important thing for civilians to remember or know about the military, and it’s veterans?

Carl: Wow, toughy!

We choose to serve and protect.

Some of us did some pretty bad things in really shitty places in order that civilians could walk and talk the way they do.

We won’t ask for respect but understand it is due from civilians, especially for those fallen, or those who come back broken.

The military is not made up of morons (except the military police, that is) and for the most part, ex-mil have a highly tuned sense of discipline, organization, skill-set, and respect for those serving. Civilians dissing military or veterans alike will provoke a reaction from ex-mil.

Some vets came home broken. Combat FK’s with the mind, and you can’t fix that with plaster. Some came home with horrific injuries, those may need a lot of help. Both will need long term help.

They deserve care, understanding, respect, and HELP, even if they don’t ask for it.

As for their due (pensions, medicare) they served those who choose not to. To deprive them of help is despicable.

?: Carl, and Qui, thank you so much for your time, and honest, well-thought answers over this past week. I definitely appreciate the opportunity to interview you. It has been a real pleasure.

Keep your eyes here, because there will be another Vet Voices interview soon, with an American Air Force veteran who served in the early ’60’s.

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