STEPHEN HEPBURN: We must do more to help our heroes

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I’m determined we must do more to help Armed Forces veterans.

It was my honour this year, as every year, as the local MP to represent the Jarrow Parliamentary Constituency at the Remembrance Day parade and service.

It’s an opportunity to pay our respects to the brave people who died in both World Wars and the conflicts that followed.

Emotional and inspiring, the poppy day ceremony filled me with pride mixed with sorrow.

We must never neglect the ultimate sacrifice of so many in the protection of our country.

Like many of you, I paused and reflected on their heroism. Cut down in their prime, they didn’t grow old.

Our wreaths commemorate the so many gone yet destined never to be forgotten.

But as well as honouring those no longer with us, we have a duty to those veterans who remain.

It’s a national scandal that 10% of prisoners are veterans. That 10,000 former servicemen and women are homeless. That too many ex-military struggle to find decent jobs. And the wounded and maimed struggle.

We must care when for them when they leave the military to return to civilian life. We owe them that.

I was thrilled to meet shortly before Remembrance Sunday local Jarrow lad Jack Lamb.

Many of you will know him as the ex-rifleman on the TV show DIY SOS which saw hundreds of volunteers, including Princes William and Harry, transform a derelict Manchester street into homes fit for heroes.

Jack’s an every-day working-class lad. He joined the Army at 16. Sadly, he was shot by the Taliban in Afghanistan.  

Left partially blind, suffering brain damage and post-traumatic stress disorder, Jack’s fightback stirred viewers.

Jack’s moving to Manchester to re-train in building and planning, but wants to return home afterwards, and he sought my help to launch a DIY SOS project here on South Tyneside.

It’s a brilliant idea. He had my support instantly.

Plans are in their infancy, though the initial proposal is to turn rundown housing into a facility where veterans could retrain, readjust and receive general support such as counselling.

The suffering of former soldiers and other ex-forces personnel shames our country.

It’s a regrettable, if alas, danger in wars that a number of veterans will return deeply troubled from the horrors of Iraq and Afghanistan where they witness and experience unimaginable terrors the rest of us may barely comprehend. What isn’t inevitable is neglect, indifference, poor care, prison or homelessness.

That’s why I’m excited by Jack’s drive to hep ex-military here on Tyneside, his enthusiasm and passion is an exhilarating shot of adrenalin.

I’ve contacted South Tyneside Council to find out what needs to be done and I’m delighted our local authority said it would be more than happy to meet with Jack to discuss his marvellous project.

It’s genuinely heartening, uplifting and stimulating to assist a selfless man who endured so much trauma in his young life and is now campaigning for the benefit of others who’ve been through what he overcame.

Jack Lamb sums up so much of what’s great about the very special people in our area.

On Remembrance Sunday we honour the dead. We must pay our dues to the living every single day of the year.

I salute you, Jack, and will continue to do everything in my power to make your dream a reality.