‘We’re confirming it!’ MP fact-checks himself over veterans response to Afghanistan exit

‘We’re confirming it!’ MP fact-checks himself over veterans response to Afghanistan exit

09/06/2021

Afghanistan: Heappey discusses support for veterans

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Mr Heappey was forced to fact-check himself after claiming the Ministry of Defence had received reports of Afghanistan veterans taking their lives following the fall of Kabul last month. The Armed Forces minister had told Sky News presenter Kay Burley that at least one veteran had died since Britain began to evacuate former translators and their families from Afghanistan.

BBC Breakfast host Dan Walker asked Mr Heappey: “Is it right that someone that you served with has taken their own life in Afghanistan?”

He replied: “Well, I’m glad that you asked me that if only that.

“Since I mentioned that to your colleague Kay Burley on Sky only 20 minutes ago, we’ve had a number of reports that actually the thing I was referring to was inaccurate. 

“We’re looking very carefully at whether or not it is true that someone has taken their life in the last few days.

“But actually, that shouldn’t take away from the fact that far too many service people have taken their lives in the last 10 years as a consequence of their service in Afghanistan.

“And we need to reassure them that their service was worthwhile, and we need to get an arm around them as a nation through government, through our communities through charities, through the regimental associations to make sure that they’re supported.

 

Mr Heappey previously told Sky News: “I know, unfortunately, there have been soldiers who’ve served in Afghanistan, indeed a soldier who served with me on my last tour of Afghanistan, who’ve taken their lives in the last week or so because of the feelings they’ve had over what’s happened in Afghanistan.

“That’s hugely concerning and upsetting for people like me who are now in government and who served there and I know how much the veterans’ community is hurting.”

British forces left Afghanistan, ending airlift evacuations, bringing their 20-year military campaign in the country to an end on August 31.

Speaking later on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Mr Heappey said he had made his comments after seeing what appeared to be a genuine note posted on social media.

“A suicide note was shared on social media at the back end of last week which referred in very, very accurate detail to the tour that I served on which was with 2 Rifles in Sangin in 2009,” he said.

“Because it lays the blame (on) the words of politicians in saying that this wasn’t all in vain, I have spent the weekend thinking that my words on this subject might have contributed to the suicide of a colleague.”

Mr Heappey insisted that his possible error should not detract from need to support veterans of the conflict, many of whom were deeply distressed by the events of the past weeks.

“That shouldn’t take away from the fact that far too many service people have taken their lives in the last 10 years as a consequence of their service in Afghanistan, a high number from my own regiment, The Rifles,” he said.

“We can leave no stone unturned in making sure that we support our veterans because this will be an acutely challenging time for them when their service in Afghanistan will be called into question in their own minds.

“We need to reassure them their service was worthwhile and we need to get an arm around them as a nation to make sure they are supported.”

If you are struggling and have suicidal thoughts, know you are not alone and that help is available. Please contact any one of the following. In the UK, you can call the Samaritans free on 116 123 (the number will not appear on your telephone bill) or email jo@samaritans.org. In America, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a network of more than 160 crisis centres that provide a 24-hour-a-day service via a free hotline on 00-1-800-273-8255. Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call 13-11-14. Help is ALWAYS available. If you need it, reach out.

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