Supporting Troops Afterwards

Ben Parkinson was a British soldier. I say was, actually he still is, but his days of active duty are over.

He was blown up by a landmine in Afghanistan. His injuries were horrendous. He lost both legs, and suffered 35 other injuries, including damage to his spine, pelvis, hands and spleen. He has brain damage as well.

Ben Parkinson, bronzed, good looking, six feet four inches tall, is now a physical wreck who will need 24/7 care for the rest of his life. And this week he was awarded compensation for those injuries of some 300,000 dollars.

Now frankly, that sum would not buy you a place to park your car in central London for very long, and the award has outraged many. A former Chief of Staff of our armed forces said that as a nation, we really should be ashamed.

I talked to Ben's parents about their son. They are happy to devote the rest of their lives to his care, but they need to buy him a home, to equip it, and to ensure he gets all the help that is necessary. It will take a great deal of money. The award does not begin to meet his needs. And to make them even angrier, they know that others are treated very differently.

One opposition politician here contrasted Ben's award with that of a secretary at the Ministry of Defense, unable to work because of a thumb injury, who was paid a million dollars compensation. Ben's parents, Diane and Andy, will fight on for their son. And already our government has promised to review the formula for calculating compensation for soldiers -- so he might end up getting more.

But whatever we give the Parkinson family, it will never be enough. There's a growing list of our soldiers, and of course of yours, who have died for their country both in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And there's a much longer list of those who have suffered physical or mental damage which will blight the remainder of their lives.

Your President recently compared the struggle in Iraq to that in Vietnam. Well there is certainly one similarity. We will continue to see on our streets the scars of those who have suffered long after the fighting in those countries has ceased. And our duty to those who have suffered while wearing their country's uniform is absolute.

It seems to me that Ben and all the thousands like him, who are suffering here and in your country, must simply be given whatever they need, whatever the cost.
by Peter Allen