TUV candidate for East Londonderry, former soldier Jordan Armstrong, spoke this week about his experience in the war in Afghanistan as he called for action on a ‘Military Covenant’ in Northern Ireland.
Mr Armstrong, who served with the First Batallion, Royal Irish Regiment, said: “At the age of 19, I was serving in Sangin DC, Helmand Province, in the war torn country of Afghanistan.
“This is one of the most dangerous parts of the world where British soldiers have been deployed.
“Sangin DC is not a place for the faint hearted. The relentless heat, reaching over 40 degrees at the peak of the day, is unforgiving.
“At any moment, deviating from the cleared route from the Point Man could lead to the risk of losing a limb, or, tragically, the loss of life in the blink of an eye.
“The harrowing sound of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) can send a chill down your spine and the sight of its destruction on human flesh, are some life-changing experiences that I and many other soldiers, witnessed during our tour in Afghanistan.
The harrowing sound of an IED can send a chill down your spine and the sight of its destruction on human flesh are some life changing experiencesJordan Armstrong
“Recently I was greatly saddened and disturbed to read about my Platoon Sergeant Trevor Coult MC and his battle with PTSD.
“He has felt the necessity to sell his service medals to raise awareness for his suffering.
“Many like him served their country with distinction and have been traumatised by the harsh reality of war but now feel they are forgotten and left to deal with this life changing illness by themselves. This matter must be urgently addressed and taken more seriously.
“Back in May 2011 HM Government published the Armed Forces Covenant. It states: ‘The armed forces covenant sets out the relationship between the nation, the government, and the armed forces community. It sets out the standards for the level of services that veterans and their families expect.’
“In Northern Ireland, no such covenant exists
“The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee’s inquiry found ‘that due to devolution, variations exist across the regions of the UK as to how health, housing and education services are provided.’
“These are vital benefits that are not available in Northern Ireland.
“The Executive also failed to respond to the MOD request for a contribution to the annual report on the implementation of the Covenant.
“It was discovered that “no formal or informal discussion” had taken place because: “It requires the agreement of both the First Minister and the deputy First Minister before a matter comes to the Executive’s table”.
“It’s evident; therefore, that Belfast Agreement style devolution won’t deliver for our Armed Forces because Sinn Fein is calling the shots at the Executive table.
“The TUV strongly supports the extension of the Armed Forces Covenant to Northern Ireland, and believe those who were willing to sacrifice so much for their country should be treated with parity to the rest of the UK.
“Soldiers returning from deployment and suffering from mental or physical injuries need the support and help at their point of need.
“Soldiers should not be asked to wait for long periods of time for essential medical treatment.”