VETERANS battling to save the lives of traumatised troops have launched a new service which they hope will one day get the backing of police.
Friends Daniel Arnold and Stephen James – founders of Portsmouth-based forces group, All Call Signs – have launched a new system to track at-risk missing veterans.
Known as The Beacon, the new piece of tech helps to alert an army of ex-servicemen across the country to a comrade in distress.
The system can send an alert to those registered up to the beacon service, helping them to mobilise within minutes to form search parties.
And since launching only a few weeks ago, it has already been put to good use, helping to find at least two missing veterans and supporting other searches up and down the country.
Stephen and Daniel, who both served with 2nd Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (2PWRR), are now eager to join forces with police to offer specialised teams, made up of current and ex-forces personnel, to help find missing veterans believed to be suicidal or suffering from PTSD.
Afghanistan veteran Daniel, who was a Lance Corporal with 2PWRR, said he hoped the support of their volunteers could relieve the strain on police forces.
‘We know that thin blue line is only getting thinner,’ he said. ‘As former military, we’re training in search and rescue operations. We’re organised and co-ordinated and can provide that resource to help the police.’
The system has already been backed by Viv Johnston, mother of special forces hero Danny Johnston, whose body was found in May after he vanished from the family home.
Viv, who lives in Bognor, has now joined All Call Signs as a patron and is eager for the organisation to continue to work towards helping armed forces personnel in crisis.
She said: ‘All Call Signs could be the lifeline for a veteran in real need. If it had been around when Danny went missing, who knows what might have happened.
‘Right now we’re sitting on a ticking time bomb and something has to be done. Too many veterans with PTSD are taking their own lives.’
Father-of-six Stephen, 31, of Portsmouth, created the system in the wake of Danny’s death earlier this year. The application uses rudimentary artificial intelligence to send targeted alerts users to missing veterans in their area.
He said: We have had to launch ground teams three times. Of those three times, twice it’s been our team or users that have recovered the person.
‘We had one guy who was reported missing for 48 hours. An online appeal by police managed to reach 60,000 people in that time.
‘Within four hours of us sharing this and sending out an alert, we had an audience of 250,000. This is a real proof on concept. We can get the message out rapidly.’
The team are hoping to set up meetings with Hampshire Constabulary in the near future to offer their support.
They added this link would help them to more quickly identify a genuine veteran that is in need.