Veterans haunted by unimaginable horror of war

Veterans haunted by unimaginable horror of war

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GB News
Anna Riley

By Anna Riley

Published: 22/02/2024

- 05:00

One in three veterans have felt suicidal in their lifetime.

Military personnel deal with intense levels of pressure and the sort of harsh realities that many people cannot begin to imagine and due to what they have witnessed in service, one in three veterans have felt suicidal in their lifetime.

Valerie Redmore-McDonald, 57, from Hull, was a Warrant Officer in the Armed Forces and had a career spanning nearly two decades after joining up at the age of 18.

The veteran is still haunted by the horrors she witnessed whilst serving in the aftermath of the Bosnian civil war.

She told GB News: “Civil war is the worst type of war, without a doubt. There are no real rules of engagement as we call them, so there were some absolutely horrific things that happened in towns and villages and I’ll never, ever lose that from my mind.

Valerie Redmore-McDonald and Bosnian civil war

Valerie Redmore-McDonald remembers her time serving during the Bosnian civil war

GB News

“Villages [in Bosnia] with trees just chopped down because they needed the warmth on the fires. You’d see a bland village with no art, no trees, no playground, nothing.

“Some of the horrific things that these people did to each other, burning each other literally alive in their houses, chopping off children’s fingers and one guy made a necklace of them.

“One lady, she was killed and then she was pregnant. Her stomach was macheted open and then her husband’s head was put inside of her body and the baby was ripped out. These things aren’t normal.”

Valerie was diagnosed with PTSD and still gets flashbacks of the trauma she experienced in Bosnia.

Valerie Redmore-McDonald

Valerie Redmore-McDonald

GB News

She’s written a book of poetry, From Hull to Adversity along with Sue and Terry Ireland about her time in the Army, an experience that has been both harrowing and cathartic as she relived traumatic memories.

The poetry is to raise funds for the Willerby, Kirk Ella and Anlaby branch of the Royal British Legion, where she volunteers as a standard bearer.

“It’s really important to get that diagnosis and to admit that, you know, things aren’t quite right for you and then understand that it’s normal for it not to be normal after what you’ve been through and what you’ve seen and witnessed.”

Tragically, not every veteran seeks help and their mental health battle can end in suicide.

\u200bAdrian Ellis

Adrian Ellis’ veteran son George took his own life at the age of 24

GB news

Adrian Ellis’ veteran son George took his own life at the age of 24 in April 2021. He served as an infantryman for six years before leaving the army to pursue a career as a telecoms engineer.

To honour George’s life, Adrian set up GEO Military Men’s Talking Group to encourage serving and ex-armed forces members to share their struggles.

He told GB News: “When you leave the forces, there’s no rehabilitation back into civilian life. It’s all about structure, routine, being told what you can do, what you can’t do and when. Having to fend for yourself when you come out of the forces is a culture shock.

“I’m not saying that was the cause of his suicide, but there’s got to be more support for males and females when they leave the forces.”

“George didn’t reach out, he didn’t talk, he paid the ultimate. His death can’t be in vain. Suicide is such a taboo subject and I wanted to make a difference and I want George’s legacy to continue.

Bosnian civil war

Bosnian civil war

GB News

“Since GEO’s been formed, we know we’ve saved five veteran’s lives. 99 per cent of suicides are preventable, but we’ve got to reach out and ask for that help.”

Adrian and his wife Carol were praised by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last year, who thanked the couple and told them how “in awe” he was of the work they do.

Last month, Adrian also delivered his first three talks to secondary school pupils in Years 9, 10 and 11 at Baysgarth School in Barton, bravely sharing the lasting impact that suicide has on the victim's family and encouraging anyone battling mental health issues to seek help and speak out.

It’s Adrian’s ultimate goal is to deliver these crucial talks in schools across the country – and he is encouraging local schools in northern Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire to contact him.

Heidi Dodson is a counsellor and life coach who wants more veterans to seek professional help.

She told GB News: “Veterans are actually the hardest people to come forward because actually they think they should be able to cope without somebody else’s help.

“It takes men two years if ever at all for therapy and three-quarters of suicides are men, so I’m passionate about changing that.”

The atrocities witnessed never leave those who have served, but the hope here is for veterans to not suffer in silence.

If you are feeling low, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 and for veteran support, the Royal British Legion number is 0808 802 8080.

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