The bravest thing I've done as a military veteran is discarding my medals in front of 10 Downing Street

Loading high explosive Paveway bombs onto the RAF’s latest jet -  to be dropped on people in Libya who posed no threat to my country -  was the final straw in my military career

Daniel Lenham
Thursday 10 December 2015 10:05 GMT
(Four members of Veterans for Peace discard their medals outside Downing Street)

I joined the RAF when I was 19 and served as a Weapons Technician both on and off aircraft. During the Iraq war I worked with explosives and through out the air strikes in Libya, I loaded weapons onto the Typhoons of 11 Squadron.

Yet, the most heroic thing I’ve ever done was discarding the medals given to me for my military ‘service’ in Libya and Iraq outside 10 Downing Street on Tuesday night. It was the end point of a journey which started in 2008.

I remember standing outside a local petrol station. I was just back from Iraq waiting for my mother to pick me up. I was dressed in combats and was approached by a female stranger: “I’d just like to thank you for your service” she said.

Not really understanding what she meant at the time, I accepted it with a half-hearted smile and nod of the head. This event has always stuck with me. My service? Who was it exactly I was serving? What is it that the general public believes we do over-seas? Do they know the true nature and machinations of war?

All of those questions went unanswered until my time served in Libya in 2011. Operation Ellamy: the NATO-led ousting of Colonel Gaddaffi, which left Libya in flames, crystallised my belief that what we were doing militarily was wrong.

Loading high explosive Paveway bombs onto the RAF’s latest in-service jet knowing they were going to be dropped on people who posed no threat to me or my country was the final straw.

There is a reason I discarded my Iraq medal as well. To think that we protected the people of Iraq or those in the West by invading the region couldn’t be further from the truth.To wander around with the Iraq decoration proudly on your chest was no honour.

It was an illegal and unjust war built on lies, scaremongering and propaganda, which killed and displaced hundreds of thousands, including military men and women from all around the world.

I had one more deployment over-seas to the Falkland Isles in 2012. Once again raising the question as to why I found myself so far away from home to defend the remnants of the British Empire.

Since I left the RAF in 2014, I’ve been on a journey of self-exploration and education. I’ve visited the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia where war has a lasting legacy. I’ve seen first-hand those affected by it, not as a soldier, but as a fellow human who has also suffered at the hands of war.

That is why as a member of Veterans for Peace I cast my medals on the doorstep of those who are supposed to represent the voice of the people but have failed to do just that by voting to extend UK air strikes in Syria.

In the short space of time since discarding my medals, I’ve received overwhelming support for what I and Veterans for Peace stand for.

I can understand the frustrations of the detractors; but if our opinions incite reaction and shake the foundations of patriotism then we are facilitating the right conversations and heading one step closer to peace.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in