Despite all of the Government’s rhetoric on our armed forces, when it comes to supporting them in reality, there is often another story to be told.
One of those is the case of our nuclear veterans, which I recently raised in Parliament.
These veterans they were deliberately exposed to enormous explosions as part of their service. Some were even flown through mushroom clouds on sampling missions.
Many were killed as a result of their operations.RAF navigator John Brothers died with seven tumours in his brain, throat and groin; Derek Redman died of unexplained pancreatic damage on Christmas Island; and Billy Morris contracted leukaemia after one blast despite being rated A1 fit just weeks before. These are to name but just a few.
Many others have lived on, but their service has resulted in them suffering from cancers, blood disorders and rare diseases. It has also led to significantly higher levels of infant mortality and rare disorders and disabilities in their families for generations.Wendy Brothers nursed her husband for many years and endured six miscarriages. Shirley Denson saved her husband from suicide twice, but had to raise their four girls alone after he succeeded on the third attempt.
This is not a trivial matter. The impact on veterans on their families has been profound.
Yet, they continue to be denied military medals on the basis – Government states – of not facing the necessary ‘risk and rigour faced while on active service’.
They have also been denied support and compensation from the Ministry of Defence – and the Prime Minister has repeatedly refused to meet with them.
I recently met with the nuclear veterans to listen to them, to support them and to thank them for their service.
I have no doubt that the Prime Minister and ministers would feel different if they looked these veterans in the eye and listened.
Whilst the United States offered their nuclear veterans compensation many decades ago, our veteran’s widows have been left to battle grief and the Government – whilst the Ministry of Defence has spent millions of pounds of taxpayers money to fight and block their war pension claims.
This is not right.
I recently asked the Minister to look into their case, their call for recognition, support and compensation – and I asked him if he would meet with them.
The Minister replied that they would not be receiving a medal, and did not respond to my request for him to meet with them.
Frankly, that isn’t good enough.
These people are heroes – they do not deserve to be ignored.
I won’t be letting this injustice go.
We have a duty to make sure nobody slips through the cracks. With our veterans we have binding moral commitment.
Falling short cannot be an option.