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Fight for the Falklands: Twenty years on
Introduction
My war story
Guide to the conflict

'I saw Sir Galahad burn'
Falklands map
The first day

The Argentine military's lost cause
My war story


Sir John Nott
Carlos Escude
Mark Shurben-Browne
Ruben Rada
Sir Rex Hunt
General Menendez
Jose Luis Ferreira
Bob Mullen
Augusto Bedacarratz
The end of the Falklands war, in June 1982, saw a close to hostilities. But for many veterans, the battle continued. Ruben Rada, an Argentine conscript in 1982, remembers what it was like in the years after the war.

When the Argentinian soldiers returned home after the war, the country's military governors did not want them to be seen, says Ruben Rada, a 39-year-old veteran of the conflict.

"We were misunderstood, we were expected to win but were defeated. The military governors made us come back via the back door so we wouldn't be seen. And the people soon forgot about the sacrifices we made, because bombs did not fall on Buenos Aires, but on territory far away."

As an army conscript, Rada fought near Mount Longdon, site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war, until he was taken prisoner by British troops. He suddenly found himself returned to living in peacetime.

According to Rada, for those considered "the madmen of the war", their sudden return was a traumatic experience, basically because they were unemployed and aimless. "Some became isolated or fell into depression, alcoholism or drugs because they didn't have any work or family to support them. Some contracted Aids or ended up in prison," he says.

But the worst consequence has been the suicides. According to figures from the Federation of Ex-Servicemen, across the country to date, 265 veterans have taken their own lives, the majority of them ex-conscripts. In the years immediately following the conflict, there was an average of 50 suicides per year. Even now there is a death every 18 months or so.

Missing piece

One of the most disturbing cases was in Rosario, north of Buenos Aires. Deeply depressed and out of work, Eduardo Paz, a 38-year-old father of six, threw himself off the main national monument on to the Argentine flag on the ground below. He had filed away for hours at the railing which surrounds the building, and then had taken the lift to the top.

Rada knew him: "The provincial government had given him a house the week before, but something very important was missing."

There are some 11,000 ex-servicemen from the Falklands war living in Argentina. After years of fruitless struggle, they got together and organised themselves, and got the state to grant them a pension of 316 pesos (about US$150). Two provinces provided free housing.

"But the institutions have abandoned many of them, leaving them without any psychological support," says Rada.

Post-war trauma

Alberto Miguel Scotto, 48, agrees. He was captain of a marine infantry ship which fought in Port Stanley for 70 days and he still serves in the navy, where, as in the other armed forces, there exists a veterans' department.

"Regarding psychological support," he says, "it wasn't just the lack of it, it just wasn't the right kind, because at the time in Argentina, not much was known about post war traumas. You read about other countries' experiences in books, but nobody here had come across it."

According to Scotto this lack of understanding, following the defeat in the Falklands, made countless ex-servicemen keep their fears to themselves. Only those who returned to a nurturing environment could bring their troubles into the open and this was like therapy for them. "Thank God, we were lucky to have support from our families, and friends, but not everyone was so lucky. There were those who felt totally alone and chose suicide."

Treatment

Scotto has also been touched by death. One of his subordinates returned to an apparently normal family life, but two years later he started to have nightmares and ended up having psychiatric treatment. When it seemed that he had become stable again, he killed himself. But it is not only among the veterans that lives have been shortened during the post war period.

According to Ruben Rada, who now runs the Federation of Argentine ex-Servicemen, a study revealed that 15% of fathers of the veterans died in the five years following the conflict. "As heads of their families, they felt obliged to hide their suffering and be strong, it was usually the mothers who expressed their pain openly. They (the fathers) probably cried inside until they died. That's what happened to my father."

Scotto agrees with Rada that all the post war problems stem from the same source: "Argentina believed that the conflict ended in the islands. But the battle continued on the mainland, in the private lives of those who had taken part in it.