I am a veteran by Steve Hornsby.

It’s been a long time since I was part of the Military family and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since I left and pursued my own ‘stand on your feet’ career.

Leaving the forces was like losing a part of myself. Just letting go was very difficult as the forces mentality was deeply engrained in me. I had no idea what effect it would have on my civilian existence.

As part of the military machine all things are done for you. When you eat, work, sleep, how all things are done, how you dress, where you have to be, etc. are all preordained and you don’t need to think about it – just do it!

The military has its own rules and methods of enforcing them that no-one outside the military family would truly understand, why you should give up years of your life and put yourself at risk. Why you have to contend with military discipline. It is a difficult and complex question to answer but hundreds of thousands have done it over the years, I was one of them.

I did it to pursue my love of all things flying and to gain my independence. As a Junior Technician Airframe Fitter on the C130 Hercules I travelled the world. I saw places only mentioned in films and history like Nepal, and the deserts of North Africa.

During this time, the Royal Air Force was engaged in famine relief in the Sahel desert and the mountains of Nepal. It was a massive team effort and something to be very proud of, knowing all the while that we were making a difference. The Nepal famine relief was the biggest air supplied relief since the Berlin Airlift. The simple fact that I was totally immersed in doing what I loved was enough to offset the seriously irksome military discipline side that I never truly fully accepted or even liked.

In all of my years of service, I made countless friends and lost some. I carried out all tasks professionally and without question. I have wonderful memories between 1970 and 1975 when I was in the Royal Air Force and am proud of it. My forces career set me up for my future and I am thankful for that. It was a sound foundation to build on.

I left the Royal Air Force after getting married to Carol and that was in 1975 and I am so fortunate to have her. She understands the problems that veterans have and is most supportive. Carol and I care a great team, much like the forces team I was part of, always looking out for each other.

Having someone or a support structure to rely on is of paramount importance to veterans of the armed forces. If this is not the case all too often veterans feel isolated, alone and misunderstood.

There are a lot of veterans on the streets because they do not have the skillset to transfer and adjust to civilian life. There are simply no positions for army tank gunners, for example. So many veterans have been abandoned by the society that they served. They deserve better than that.

This is why veterans need to be included in a group and supported until they can stand on their own two feet. Time to develop life skills that will see them through and help them find what they don’t even know they are looking for. Give a veteran a chance and most will take it.

Hopefully, this will give some insight into how veterans feel, why they react a certain way and how they need to be treated. Some are strong, some however are very fragile. Some served a complete term whilst others did not. But all served our country and this must never be forgotten. I was lucky not to have been in armed combat in a war zone but many were. So many did not ever come home but as veterans always say “We will remember them.”

War Veterans.

Just as the Candy Bomber dropped candy from a Douglas C-54 Skymaster in the Berlin Airlift in 1948, bringing joy and hope to so many children, we, at Save the Skymaster want to give back in a meaningful way. We want to restore a Douglas C-54 Skymaster and in so doing train up Veterans ensuring that they enjoy the teamwork and comradery, that they had whilst serving the country. Especially in this Pandemic, when jobs are so hard to find and such veteran’s confidence is at an all-time low – we want to get this classic aeroplane back in the business of helping others again. To this end, such Veterans will have a purpose with their dignity being restored as well.

Loneliness and isolation will be a thing of the past. On average 20 Veterans commit suicide every day and with many outpatient mental health programmes on hold at the moment, the suicide rate may grow. (this is a USA stat from Jamie Rowen – University of Massachusetts.) One suicide is too many and we want to embrace every avenue we can to play a pivotal role in restoring hope and a sense of achievement to vulnerable Veterans out there, trying to navigate through the COVID storm of unemployment and despair.