“They fight our wars. We fight their battles.” So runs a slogan adopted by the charity Combat Stress. Shirley Tart visits the charity’s Shropshire centre to learn more.
It’s an unlikely location really. But what happens in an otherwise anonymous building several streets away from Newport town centre and opposite a school is simply amazing — and so often can give a life back to those damaged by conflict in the service of others.
Nowadays, everyone is more aware of the psychological as well as the physical damage to our brave service personnel who day by day put their lives on the line far away from home.
Evidence of the broken or lost limbs you can see. What goes on inside head and heart is much more difficult to know and even harder to deal with.
Yet the modern-day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan bring home all too frequently the crushing damage to even those who to all intents survive.
As we know, the nation’s TV ‘soaps’ can do a splendid job in highlighting important issues of the day and reaching millions. A case in point is a recent Coronation Street storyline featuring young soldier Gary, so damaged by the death of his pal alongside him in Afghanistan and the unremitting visions of what might have happened to him, that back home he totally cracks up.
Now this is a story from soapland. Unfortunately, for thousands back from the world’s killing fields, that sort of shattering experience is all too real.
In recent times, such mental pain has been well recognised and, while never an easy task, great progress is made in restoring hurt servicemen and women whose lives might be in bits.
Audley Court at Newport was bought by Combat Stress, the main UK charity specialising in mental health care for veterans, back in 1996. Since then it has supported nearly 100,000 men and women from all three military services and the merchant navy.