Vet Voices: From the UK, Part II

Today, we continue the discussion with Carl & Quiona Thomas, a veteran’s family from the UK. We will talk with Carl about challenges during and after service, then we spend a few minutes with Qui, and actually launch into topics such as immigration reform–something I wasn’t anticipating! I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did…

?: Carl, What do you think was your biggest challenge while you were in service?

Carl: Staying alive. I was shot at by terrorists, the Argentineans, and there was that friendly-fire thing from an A10.

?: Now, since you have been out, have you experienced obstacles particularly caused by the fact that you are a vet? How did you deal with them?

Carl: First six months out, I found I was employable as hell. Then, it tailed off. Almost like a switch was thrown. After a while, I gave up “being nice” and went abroad to earn money. When I came back just six months later, I returned to an even bigger mess than before. A government “swap” and immigration was out of control. So, questions like, “Where have you been working abroad?” were “awkward.” Finally, I settled down to fixing computers and comm gear in a nice little mom-and-pop type shop. No awkward questions, good job, too. Nice bit about it, he was ex-Army.

?: Now, looking back at your time since service, if this were an ideal world, what is the one tool, resource, or policy, perhaps, you could have used or would have appreciated having access to, to overcome these obstacles, that wasn’t available to you?

Carl: Wow. Three things to think about. I’ll want paying after this brain workout!

One tool? L42a1 would have done me, or my personal love, a SVD Dragunov. Happy with either, and a couple of hundred rounds. (I think he took me a little too literal here!)

One resource? It’s now here, the Internet. When I left, it was in its’ infancy. I was in on the first university setups and big business. A lot of my first jobs were found using bulletin boards, but when the internet REALLY got going, job hunting was simplified.

One policy? Two fold: The right to keep and bear arms. I watched a friend die by a hand of another. Me, literally on the other side of a fence. One handgun and it would have been a different story. THAT, I’ll never forget, too.

That, and the UK has NEVER looked after it’s vets or their dependents, whole or injured, so a VA would be nice, as opposed to relying on charity the whole damn time.

?: So, on that note, what are your thoughts about the current members of the UK military, and perhaps a more important question, your governments’ use of them?

Carl: Poor sods is what I think. Being put in harm’s way on a politician’s whim, no job security, and a terrible civilian climate to work in as most of the good jobs are now done by the PC’s. The forces is a shadow of what it was when I was in.

?: When you say a shadow, do you mean just numbers, or the intrinsic stuff like esprit de corps, resolve, etc?

Carl: Equipment, logistics, weapons, training, and morale is really low following the mass redundancies plus all the deployments and the UK is still being labeled as the borrowers.

?: Anything you see as a solution to that?

Carl: Brick wall and loads of ammo comes to mind.

?: Well, yes, but there would probably be repercussions to that. I mean a diplomatic or policy-based solution?

Carl: We are talking about the UK government. The only time they change policy is if there is no money in it, or they are scared.

?: Anyone in your government currently that you think has the right ideas, if they just had the support? Also, I would like to get Qui to weigh in on this, as she has a background in economics.

Carl: As for a politician of note, sorry to say, there are none who give a toss about the forces, ex- or otherwise.

Qui: Hi, dear, Qui here.

?: Hi, Qui! Carl and I were talking about the current military force in the UK, and how it is a bit out of sorts, due to government policy and interference. I asked him if there was anyone currently sitting in government that might have the right ideas (and no overwhelming desire to line his pockets) that might do something right, if he had enough support? I understand you have a background in economics, so I wondered if you might have a different take on that subject?

Qui: Numbers were definitely my forte’, and though I had the title, I didn’t have the paper to say that. I don’t think anyone in power actually knows what the figures are, to be honest. They keep moving the goalposts, including this, excluding that, thinking of another and multiplying it all by 10, to make them look good.

?: So, no one looks good to you, currently in office? Or even perhaps like their intentions haven’t been tarnished yet?

Qui: I don’t trust any of them to deliver on their promises, particularly with an election coming up!

?: I am going to get back to some more military-related questions. Let me know if Carl tries to boot you off the computer, as his questions are a little different.

Qui: Chat with me, I’m prettier!

?: Absolutely the truth! As a wife, and I realize he had been out of service for a bit when you two met, but does his training or indoctrination (perhaps that is the right word) provide any unique challenges in the relationship?

Qui: I don’t think the same way as him, neither do I see things the way he does. It’s part of why our relationship works. We come up with some very unique solutions to problems!

?: I can imagine, a military background, and a financial background, make a pretty powerful problem-solving team?!

Qui: Yes, he wants to buy bullets, and I say, “No!” He also had a go at teaching me to shoot, and a conditioner bottle top doesn’t stand a chance now!

?: A well-trained, well-armed, smart woman is her countries’ greatest asset, and it’s greatest threat!

Now, have you noticed or experienced in any way, that things are more difficult in society as a whole, because you are married to a veteran? Have there been specific challenges you have faced, that you would not have experienced, if he were a civilian?

Qui: He also has made me more aware of my surroundings, and when situations are somewhat out-of-kilter, but we both had a jaded view of everything when we met, obviously for different reasons.

?: And his being a veteran hasn’t caused any undue hardship in dealing with the community or the powers that be, in your mind? Other than perhaps disagreeing with sheeple, I imagine?

Qui: Carl tends to be more cynical than me, though I have my moments, but because our backgrounds are so different, he sees things from a different perspective. Sometimes I can see his point, but I don’t always agree with him. I can’t say there have been any hardships in dealing with anything, though. If we differ, we always discuss it. He’s the hard-ass (he thinks) and I am the pussy-cat (with long claws.)

?: Now, if you were in a position to cause any sort of change within your countries’ government, what sort of policy change would you set into effect to help veterans? (Imagine you actually had all the power you needed to effect this change, here.)

Qui: Oh, I wish! I’d like to see an increase in support on all sides, not just financial. I’d like to see the return of National Service, so that the young of today give the respect to veterans, that they so rightly deserve. I’d like there to be some form of definite and permanent structure in place for those who need help, somewhere/someone/an organization where they won’t be turned away, won’t feel alone, or isolated?

?: I understand your government doesn’t have the equivalent of our US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, with its Veteran’s Hospitals. Are you thinking something along those lines, or do you have better ideas?

Qui: Yes, I think we need something similar.

?: You may not know the answer to this next question, but I will throw it out to you. If I were a young, newly-separated UK military person, and needed help, where would I go?

Qui: As a young military person needing help, I would probably go to the Chaplain. Carl says that’s normally where someone would turn, and when we offered assistance to someone in the past, that was the first thing that crossed my mind.

?: Wow. I can imagine how many people wouldn’t even bother, if that was the best place to start. Wow.

Qui: Please explain that last comment?

?: It has been my experience, talking to other veterans, some of your experiences may leave you feeling that perhaps God doesn’t want anything to do with you, or that He has forsaken you, so having to go to a chaplain to get help would be especially difficult, more so than talking to some bureaurocrat.

Carl: True, most veterans have seen and probably been in some heavy shit and it does shake the faith, BUT the UK chaplains have the power to walk into the CO’s office and grab the guy by the throat and remind him that HE ain’t God! The chaplain’s concern is to keep the dependents happy, as well as his brethren. A distracted swordsman is a bad risk, and worry about his lady or baby is one hell of a distraction. Back to Qui.

?: Now, Qui, I asked Carl this same question, but I anticipate a different answer from you. What are your thoughts about the current UK military, and more importantly, the government’s use of them?

Qui: I’d like to see our troops brought home from places where we don’t belong.

?: Great answer! And along those same lines, (and you may not feel you have a great answer to this, but I am going to throw it out there,) what do you see as the biggest obstacle to new veterans of the UK military? This is purely asking your opinion, so no answer is going to be wrong.

Qui: No respect, no job prospects, no support!

?: So your answer gives me a sense that the predicament that veterans in your country find themselves is largely of the governments’ making, but that’s not the complete picture. There is also a general lack of empathy and respect amongst the civilian population, as well?

Qui: This is a toughie for me to answer, but from what I can gather, if you are ex-mil over here, the only job prospects seem to be in something in the security line. If they are trained, some employers like to hire ex-mil, but it all comes down to money, and sadly, the migrant workforce is cheaper.

?: You read my mind. I was just going to ask that. So, some of the pressure veterans are facing can be directly traced back to the governments’ handling of immigration issues?

Qui: Non-handling.

?: Exactly. And do you feel that a population that was not so inundated with émigrés would also hold more respect for their veterans, and perhaps hold their government more accountable to take care of them?

Qui: Again, a tough one for me. I think if anyone has served their country they should not be forgotten once they are out of uniform. Carl could probably answer that one better than me.

?: Ok, one last question for you, Qui, and thank you so much for taking your time to talk with me today. What do you think is the most important thing for civilians to remember, or know, about the military, and it’s veterans? Once again, this is your opinion, and no answer is wrong.

Qui: When I think about Remembrance Day, although no war stories were passed on to me by uncles or grandfathers, I appreciate the ultimate sacrifice so many made for someone like me, and show my respect.

?: Again, thank you so much for your time. It has been a joy interviewing you.

Qui: You are welcome.