Fighting New Battles - veterans in the criminal justice system.

In a life long ago, I shined my dress shoes until my face looked back at me. In pristine uniform, I lined up with a Squad to march through a pretty town as part of a Remembrance parade. I was so focussed on marching perfectly in step that I almost lost the meaning of the day. It was a proud moment as we drew to a halt together, our final step echoing around the square.  As sound of our final step faded, a little girl exclaimed “Look Mummy, look how shiny her shoes are!”

But Remembrance Sunday is so much more than shiny shoes and the perfect step.  As COVID 19 has unfolded, this year’s Remembrance Sunday looked and sounded a little different across the country.

As we remember the service men and women of the two World Wars and later conflicts, I hold a special place in my prayers for the veterans still battling to find their place in civilian live.

Our work with people from the Criminal Justice System includes a fair number of veterans. Every story is different, but I can’t help wondering about those journeys and the particular challenges veterans face from the Criminal Justice System. Although their challenges and outlook may be coloured by their past experiences, it is not all bad news.  In fact according to a DASA study, only 3.5 % of people convicted of crimes are veterans, they are less likely to end up in the Criminal Justice System than their non-veteran peers. Our veteran clients are also able to tap into the veteran specific support and understanding of amazing charities such as SSAFA that will work with them, regardless of their situation.

Whatever your thoughts about Remembrance, there are real people who have been impacted and are still haunted by conflict and war. This year in the silence, I will take time to remember my experiences in the Forces and the many people I worked with, and now those few who it is my privilege to support as they fight their own battles in their new life.  

Rachel, Community Chaplain and Veteran