Lead by example, that’s my motto as I swallow a huge lump of dread. Seriously, Op Wamits is probably the most impacting project I could have undertaken. The primary focus is not to raise funds, although this would be a great way to support veterans charities , but to let people know the cold hard truth of Operational Stress Injuries.
Recently, I was saddened by the death of a soldier from my old regiment by suicide. Although I didn’t know him personally, it was still very upsetting to know it had happened so close to home. Sadly, Danny is only one of 23 veterans who have taken their lives this year. Although we can never tell what drove them to take their lives, we do know that accessing help has been increasingly difficult. The sad truth is, there IS help there.
I know the NHS and other agencies such as Combat Stress, SSAFA etc are bending over backwards to get these guys help but I feel that the phrase ‘PTSD’ has become so prolific that it’s kind of lost its meaning to most who say it. However, the bitter, shocking truth is that Veterans still suffer horribly to the point that they can no longer stand to endure their nightmares and flashbacks so badly that their only option is to end it all.
What we need is a way to get the message to veterans. A way to let them know where their own help agencies are. It doesn’t matter who the agency is, if they can help save a life then thats what counts. Here in Worcester, we are lucky enough to have the Tommy Atkins Centre and I know that there are plenty of other veterans hubs around the country but if they don’t know where they are then we are already losing. OP Wamits is a way of combatting that but we need your help to do it.
So, on the 15th July 2018, Dr Jonathan Leach, NHS Veterans Lead England and myself will kick it all off by attempting to complete the 24km Fan Dance Route. As someone who lives with heart disease it will be some undertaking for me but if it can make people talk then it’s worth it. And if I can do it, so can you. My chosen charity will be our own Tommy Atkins Centre in Worcester and the brand new TILS/ CTS NHS system.
I invite you all to take up your own ‘Op Wamits’. The rules I have set are very simple. Walk at least a mile preferably in a pair of military footwear (very easy to get hold of). For those able bodied, I would have thought you could be a little more imaginative and energetic to complete a walk worthy of the exercise. During your walk, take photos and videos telling Veterans where they can get help and then spread it on social media. By all means use it to remember, promote, raise funds etc but please quote Op WAMITS/ SBT in your social media entries. Lets really get this out there and pave the way for Veterans.
So there it is, the challenge is set, can you Walk A Mile In Their Shoes?