THEY’RE willing to give their lives to defend the nation. But as a society we are becoming shamefully dismissive of our youngest military veterans.
This is the conclusion of a damning report being released today by one of Britain’s most-established armed forces charities, SSAFA.
The shock study paints a sorry picture of modern-day British values, prompting calls from top military officers and politicians for a change in the public’s attitude.
It comes as new plans were revealed to open a support site in Portsmouth for traumatised war heroes.
Hampshire has one of the UK’s largest veteran populations. However, SSAFA has warned of a ‘disturbing disconnect’ among newer veterans who feel ‘increasingly alienated’ by the nation.
More than 1,000 veterans were surveyed with almost two thirds admitting they felt undervalued by their civilian peers, while 82 per cent felt US veterans were more respected the UK ones.
Alarmingly, the report also highlights the staggering number of those who become homeless after leaving the military – with almost a quarter (22 per cent) living rough.
While 87 per cent said they struggled financially, with one-in-five ex-military households surviving on an average income of £7,500 a year.
The report also revealed how veterans struggled to get jobs when they mention their military service on their CV.
Sir Andrew Gregory, SSAFA chief executive, said: ‘Too many veterans feel undervalued and it’s our duty as a nation to rectify this.
‘Valuable skills are being brushed aside by civilian employers; to the extent that some veterans hide their service history altogether.’
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Chris Parker, 49, represents hundreds of Hampshire veterans as the chairman of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment Association.
The decorated officer, who grew up in Cowplain, wants people to be more welcoming towards veterans – similar to how ex-servicemen in the US are treated. He said: ‘This is a sorry state of affairs.
‘In the US they clap and cheer for their veterans. But here we shrug and look away.
‘We’ve got to change that. We have got to show more support. It only has to be small things: just saying “thank you for your service” can mean the world.’
Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, said: ‘I’m hugely worried about the research findings by SSAFA and I will be taking it up in parliament to make sure our veterans – those people that have served the nation – are given the support they need.’