SPECIAL forces veteran and TV adventurer Ant Middleton has blasted the government for ‘deserting’ war heroes when they leave the military.
In a scathing critique, Afghanistan veteran Ant – who served in the SAS’s sister unit the Special Boat Service – claimed the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was ‘washing its hands’ of troops.
The sniper – who was born in Portsmouth and grew up in Waterlooville – also lambasted Whitehall for failing to record the number of veterans who kill themselves.
It comes after an investigation by The News and parent company Johnston Press revealed that no comprehensive official records are kept of the number of British ex-servicemen and women taking their lives.
Speaking to The News, the 37-year-old said: ‘To not be tracking these people that are feeling suicidal is absolutely insane.
‘You have made this machine and now it’s malfunctioned and you want to wash your hands of it. That’s just wrong.’
Ant added when people left the military they were forced to fend for themselves, with many struggling to cope with the adjustment to ‘Civvy Street’.
Now, the elite soldier-turned-TV personality is launching his own fight to try and help his brothers in arms.
He has set up the Ant Middleton Fund to support armed forces charity SSAFA and hopes to raise £500,000 by Easter.
All this cash will then be pumped into paying for up to 30 mentors within the charity, who will help those leaving the military to cope with the transition into civilian life.
Ant claimed veterans didn’t feel valued by the MoD after retiring and said: ‘Like any other job, if you show an interest in leaving you’re no longer an asset to the organisation.
‘They just give you their courses and resettlement advice but they don’t retune your mind or reprogramme your mindset.’
Ant said the mentors could help veterans get to grips with areas that are often stressful, like housing and job hunting.
And this in turn could help to prevent vulnerable veterans from becoming overwhelmed, depressed or suicidal, he said.
He added: ‘If you’re a young soldier and join at 22 you don’t just join the military and expect to know how to react and to think, you’re told what to do – you’re trained what to do, you get mentored.
‘It’s no different coming out into society. It’s two different worlds. People don’t realise that.
‘You have to be coached how to act like a civvy, how to live a basic life. That means paying the rent and finding a job, putting food on the table, signing up to your local doctors or dentists; we never had to do any of this in the military – it was all sorted for us.’
To donate to Ant’s campaign, see ssafa.org.uk/AMF