A GLENGORMLEY father has hit out at what he feels has been a lack of care and provision for his son after he served with the Army in Afghanistan.
Ed Burns’s son James was part of the Royal Logistics Corp attached to the Royal Marines in Barnstable.
The 21-year-old joined the Army straight out of school and was discharged in July after a tour of Afghanistan, where he was based in camp Bastion in Helmand Province.
His father Ed says James has been left with severe post-traumatic stress and is in desperate need of help.
He said: “I don’t know what happened in Afghanistan - none of us do - but it broke my son and it has ripped my family apart.”
In the past year James has been in trouble with the police and in July was given an order to serve 200 hours community service for causing nearly £3,000 worth of damage to vehicles in a van depot in Mallusk.
Ed continued: “This was not the first time he has done things like this. There have been other occasions that he has caused damage, but we have been able to sort it out ourselves and pay for the damage.
“He drinks and then puts on his combat fatigues and then wants to take on the world. He is filled with paranoia.
“James even had to be gassed by CS spray in our house on one occasion and in the incident in Mallusk after he wrecked the vehicles he immediately called the police - it is just a big cry for help from him and we don’t know what to do.
“I have been in and out of the courts and the police station - it is really tough on my family, I can’t imagine the torture my son is going through. I am worried he will end up in prison and that would make things even worse.”
He went on: “James was in the Marines, so he is a real fit guy. Our fear is that he will hurt himself or someone else.
“People say that he will turn on us if we are not careful - but he is my son and I will stick by him no matter what.”
Ed said that when his son returned from Afghanistan he was treated by an Army psychiatrist in Thiepval barracks in Lisburn.
He continued: “We went maybe 20 times to see the doctor and he was decent to James - but obviously what he went through in Afghanistan will take a lot more work than those sessions on their own.
“He was discharged from the Army because they didn’t want him holding a weapon or driving and when they are making fit and able men redundant in the armed forces, James had no hope.
“On his discharge James received a badge to say he was a veteran and handed his medical records to give to his GP and that was it.
“They took my son, broke him and threw him on the scrapheap when they were done with him - and now they expect the health service and his family to pick up the pieces - it’s not fair and it’s not right.
“At 21 he is still just a child but he has no hope now at a decent career or future and it is because of the Army. They may say they look after their own, but they just pay lip-service to it, there is no substance behind the words.”
Mr Burns added: “I wanted to speak out because my son will not be the only one and my family will not be the only family going through this nightmare having to pick up the pieces of these young boys fighting in far-off war zones.
“There needs to some form of proper help in place for these boys to give them a chance at life.”
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said they could not discuss individual cases, she said: “We know that making the transition from the Armed Forces into civilian life can be daunting which is why we have a robust and effective resettlement system in place, used by 95 per cent of personnel. This provides crucial support and a number of benefits; from grants, career guidance and resettlement leave.
“We attach a high priority to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. We have put measures in place to mitigate against Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other stress-related disorders occurring among Service personnel. These include pre and post-deployment briefing and the availability of counselling both during and after deployments.”