Soldier who fought on frontline in Afghanistan calls for better treatment of veterans (From Basildon Recorder)
Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting ECHONEWS to 80360, or email us »
Soldier who fought on frontline in Afghanistan calls for better treatment of veterans
A FORMER soldier who fought on the frontline in Afghanistan is calling for better treatment for servicemen when they return home.
James Fry, 23, of Havengore, Pitsea, went to fight in the Helmand Province in 2009 where he spent seven months driving armoured vehicles as part of the 23 Pioneer Regiment.
Just last month leaders of Basildon Council including Tony Ball and Mo Larkin signed up to a Military Agreement which sets out the relationship between the nation, the state and the Armed Forces and it was Basildon’s moral obligation to members of the Armed Forces and their families, establishing how they should expect to be treated.
It exists to redress the disadvantages that the Armed Forces community faces in comparison to other citizens, and to recognise sacrifices made.
James said: “Seeing something like the Military Covernant signed by all our leaders makes you think former servicemen like me should be well looked after.
“Sadly the reality is that we are not and after going to Afghanistan and fighting I came home with nothing in the way of a home or a job.”
James lives with partner Elisha Hinckley, 22, and their son Alfie, who is 18-months-old, and he left the army because of the cuts taking place, the horrors he saw on the frontline and the impending birth of his son.
He said: “I always said I never wanted to do a have a child and be fighting on the frontline, it is not any kind of life for a family.
“Since I returned home I found it hard to settle back into normal life having only ever known life in the army when I joined at 17.
“I have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was signed off work for a year because he has very high stress levels and anxiety.
“When you are out there you just get on with the job and make light of the situation. “I found it hard when I came home because there was nobody I could speak to, nobody knows what life is like in Afghan, except the soldiers you have been with.”
James left school with few qualifications and went straight into the army and on his return he found that without experience it was hard to get a job.
He said: “I got a temporary job at the New Holland Tractor Plant but I was diagnosed with PTSD and signed off and I lost the job.
“We were in a lot of debt and it got out of control and we declared ourselves bankrupt because it got so bad.
“But finally after lots of help from the Royal British Legion and other local services we can see light at the end of the tunnel.”
James is calling for better help for former soldiers like himself when they come out the armed forces and for local authorities to make it easier to get a council home and advice on jobs and finances.
He added: “The Basildon borough should be doing more for its serviceman, we have gone and put our lives on the line and when we come home we cannot get a home or a job, its is so tough.
“With the Royal Anglians only marching through the town last month you would think the borough should be getting behind its servicemen and make sure we are looked after properly.”
A spokesman for Basildon Council said: "We are committed to supporting the armed services and ex-armed forces personnel that is why a review of our allocation policy is underway and is due to be finalised by April 2013, when it is envisioned that more preference will be given to ex armed forces personnel than it does currently.
"Until that time we have to follow the current policy which does give some priority but less than is being proposed in the new policy. "Mr Fry is on the housing list for a two bed property, although we understand he left the army in 2010 we had no contact with him until 2012.
"We are looking into whether we need to ask him to resubmit a medical form which may give him more priority to his case, if they have any problems with the accommodation they should contact the housing advice team who can offer help."