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Andy McNab

30 June 06 11:42 GMT

Author and former SAS Patrol Commander Andy McNab gives us his Take Of The Week

" Veterans' Day is an excellent idea, even if it is a political gimmick set up by Gordon Brown. That's okay; it's up to us as a nation to make it work.

This week, another two soldiers were killed on active service in Afghanistan, and another committed suicide in Iraq.

This is sad. But I had to turn to the inside pages in most newspapers to read about it.

Maybe that's because, as a society, the vast majority of the population, and that includes politicians, have never fought in a war and do not really value or understand our men and women in the armed services.

Not members of the WI

So to help you understand, let's get one thing straight. Soldiers are trained to fight and kill the enemy.

That is what they're paid to do. That's what I did when I was in the SAS.

Soldiers are not members of the Women's Institute. They are aggressive and professional soldiers. The vast majority want to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The Borrowers"

The fact is, our troops are inadequately equipped. They always have been. I've been in Operations where I had to steal grenades from American forces because we simply didn't have any.

Maybe that's the reason why the British army is known as "The Borrowers".

But what worries me more is that there is confusion on the ground in Afghanistan to what exactly the mission is.

This is dangerous because it puts our troops' lives at risk.

Armchair experts

We know our forces are more than capable of fighting places like Helmand Province but the problem is that politicians say one thing to keep public opinion sweet, and down on the ground, the reality is different.

Decisions on the ground sometimes in contact with the enemy are being delayed because soldiers worry that some armchair expert will deem their actions illegal in six months' time.

Even a second's delay in decision-making can mean the death of another soldier.

And our responsibility to our troops doesn't stop when they come home.

No-one there to listen

There are young men, some of them in their twenties, who have suffered both mentally and physically in operations from Northern Ireland to the Balkans and Iraq.

Friends of mine have committed suicide. There simply was no-one there to listen or assist them after the wars they'd fought in.

Very soon, we'll see others needing our help and support when they return from Afghanistan. Other countries respect and look after its soldiers. We don't.

If you talk to a Big Issue seller, there's a good chance he's ex-forces. I don't know of another country that would allow that to happen.


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