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Mirror.co.uk, September 6, 2009

Soldier reveals scandal of troops with no support

EXCLUSIVE: SCANDAL OF TROOPS WITH NO SUPPORT

By Tom Mctague

A traumatised soldier who saw one of his friends die in Afghanistan says he was told by Army bosses to "get p****d and have a fight" to get over it.

Sapper Martin Lindley, 22, says it showed the Army's lack of support as he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Eventually he was kicked out of the Army after going off the rails. And he has not been able to get a job as he drinks a litre of vodka a night to block out his memories of the war in Afghanistan.

Martin's ordeal will be highlighted in a TV documentary exposing how our boys are left to face their problems alone.

Another soldier, Danny McEneany, 36, a sergeant with the Royal Dragoon Guards, says he nearly took his own life as he struggled to cope.

He says he pointed a gun stolen from the Army at his head and pulled the trigger before moving at the last second - sending the bullet ricocheting off his living room walls. The Sunday Mirror revealed earlier this year that over 360 veterans were being treated for severe mental trauma after they witnessed horrific scenes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Martin, with the Royal Engineers in Afghanistan, says troops were encouraged to get drunk to get the trauma of war "out of their system" rather than have counselling.

The explosives expert was told to hit the bottle during a recuperation stop-over in Cyprus on the way back from the front line in 2007. He tells the Channel 4 documentary Battle Scarred that he does not think he has ever come to terms with his trauma.

He says: "When I got back from Afghanistan, I just started drinking a lot more. I can't sleep at night, I'm paranoid - if I hear a noise I think someone's there. The drinking helps as it comatoses me." Martin saw a friend die as he put him on a helicopter to be airlifted for treatment. "He had one eye closed and one open," he says. "It was surreal.

"When we got back, we went to Cyprus. All they wanted us to do was get p****d and fight. They said, 'Get p****d, we expect you to have a fight, nothing will come of it. Get it out of your system'. That was it. We then went back to the UK and played sports and got p****d. That started me off into being an alcoholic."

Martin says most soldiers were too embarrassed to ask for help for fear they would be picked on for "going mad" and were left to cope with their problems alone. The ex-soldier, now unemployed, served one tour of Afghanistan in 2007.

In some attacks, he had to walk towards enemy lines acting as a target, enticing the Taliban to fire so the Army could spot other fighters.

Martin, who joined up in 2005, says he now sleeps with a machete and a knife by his bed, at his mum's home where he lives, because "we live in a dangerous world".

After coming back from Afghanistan, he was jailed for a year and kicked out of the Army for smuggling explosives back from the warzone.

Police found the stash at his mother's home in Manchester after he told his friends about it and they reported him. He admitted three possession charges at a court martial. He was dismissed from the Army and jailed for nine months.

Danny, 36, of Merseyside, was also kicked out of the Army after suffering posttraumatic stress. His wife threw him out of their home and he packed his kit, taking his gun with him.

He says: "One night I was sitting in a chair with the telly on and I thought, 'I wonder if this thing works'. I put a magazine in, cocked it and just thought 'f*** it' and put it to my head. I'd lost everything."

He ended up on a military psychiatric ward but was charged with possession of a firearm, dishonourably discharged and jailed.

The MoD has so far paid £2.1million to nine service personnel suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder - out of 33 claims - after Iraq. No claims have been paid out in relation to Afghanistan. Dispatches: Battle Scarred is on Channel 4 tomorrow at 8pm.

Category: US-NATO, HR Violations - Views: 5863