Prime minister Boris Johnson praises inspirational Southsea soldiers for work saving suicidal troops
PRIME minister Boris Johnson has praised the inspirational work of two veterans who have prevented more than 100 suicidal military heroes from killing themselves, hailing the duo as ‘the very best of our country’.
Retired soldiers Dan Arnold and Stephen James, founders of Southsea-based armed forces charity All Call Signs, have been named as the latest ‘Points of Light’ award recipients by the PM for their life-saving work with the UK military community.
The pals, who both served with the Second Battalion, the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, set up their charity following their experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the suicide of their comrade Danny Johnston in May 2018.
They now run a mental health chat service for veterans and serving military personnel, manned by a network of 700 volunteers nationwide, as well as a suicide prevention system called ‘Beacon Alert’ which mobilises search parties when a suicidal forces person goes missing.
So far, the award-winning tech has had a hand in preventing more than 100 people from taking their lives.
Mr Johnson thanked the pair for their work in personal letters. Writing to Stephen, 32, the PM said: ‘I want to thank you for your service to our country and the bravery with which you have shared the trauma of PTSD.
‘I am lost in admiration for how you have drawn on this experience to create a brilliant tech support service for those who are serving today.
‘Together with Dan, you epitomise the very best of our country and I am honoured to be able to recognise your service.’
Since starting their charity, the duo have become leading figures in the campaign to improve mental health support for veterans.
Earlier this month, they united with veterans minister Johnny Mercer to grill the former soldier on how the government’s newly set up Office for Veterans Affairs is doing to stop suicides in the forces community.
The PM said it was ‘fantastic’ how the pair had ‘raised an army of veteran volunteers’ to support people in need.
‘You are not only Points of Light to our serving military, but an inspiration to the whole country,’ he added in a letter to Dan. 34.
Reacting to the prime minister’s announcement, Dan and Stephen said: ‘We are completely blown away to receive such an award. This award is for the whole “All Call Signs” community who share our passion to change the landscape of armed forces mental health.’
Viv Johnston, mother of special forces hero Danny Johnston from Bognor, is now a trustee with the charity following her son’s suicide.
Speaking to The News, she said: ‘I’m so proud of them both. They have been life-savers. They have gone above and beyond what anyone expected. They have brought a ray of hope to a lot of veterans who had none.’
She added the charity had created a ‘legacy’ in honour of her son, preventing other families from experiencing the tragic loss of a loved one.
‘They have stopped others going down the same road as Danny after experiencing the horrors of war,’ she said.
Dan and Stephen are the 1,505th and 1,506th recipients of the Points of Light award, which was first launched in April 2014 to recognise outstanding individuals making a difference where they live.
Former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, was ‘delighted’ by the news and said the pair had ‘inspired others’.
Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP and Labour’s shadow armed forces minister, added: ‘All Call Signs are a true testament to the spirit and values of our armed forces community, especially here in Portsmouth.
‘I know the whole of our city will join me in congratulating them on their truly deserved award. The team really are the best of Portsmouth.’