Letter: Our K-For soldiers

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Nato troops, led by the British Army, are entrenched in Kosovo. The soldiers face many difficult, tense and possibly violent situations and will see horrible sights they will never forget.

When this mission began, Tony Blair praised our soldiers and mentioned how "our armed forces will face the danger with the country behind them".

But what will we hear about the squaddies afterwards? Will it be words like "Troubled ex-soldier shot by police", "Flashbacks of SAS killer", "Suicide toll of heroes" (all recent newspaper headlines about British veterans from other conflicts)?

The toll for soldiers of Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the Gulf and Bosnia has been prison, suicide, alcoholism and divorce. Will Kosovo be any different?

The Americans learnt their lesson after Vietnam. They recognised that many returning soldiers were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and set up desensitisation programmes for GIs involved in conflicts. Undoubtedly they will do the same after Kosovo.

Sadly, in Britain only token gestures will be made. Serving soldiers will be told to "act like men" and will be more likely to end up in military prison than receive treatment for PTSD.

If the Prime Minister really cares about his troops, he will ensure that they all have a psychological return ticket back to normality.

JAMES JOHNSON

HM Prison Frankland, Durham

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