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20 years after Iraq invasion, veterans still face war trauma daily

Paul Minter considers the ongoing legacy of Britain’s involvement in Iraq, 20 years after the invasion began (Photo: Paul Minter/Heads Up)

Twenty years after the first barrage of Western cruise missiles rained down on Iraq, the scars of the battle remain fresh among many within the British military community.

After an illustrious 18-year military career in and around Basra, Paul Minter is one of those struggling to erase dark memories from their minds.

In 2007, he came to the attention of insurgents as an army major in a brigade reconnaissance unit, conducting a covert surveillance mission from a base in a southern city.

Enrolled at the age of 17, the Household Cavalry soldier also participated in four tours. Afghanistanhe miraculously survived an RPG hit and an IED detonation.

Suffering from the mental after-effects of the war, he was medically discharged from the army, last holding the rank of Sergeant in D Squadron of the Cavalry Regiment.

The 37-year-old veteran, heads up, A mental health charity for the military community, we believe that such work is as important as ever, even at a time when the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are relatively invisible.

Paul Minter completed a tour of Iraq and Afghanistan during his 18-year career in the Army (Photo: Paul Minter/Heads Up)

“Iraq involved Britain for quite some time, and there was a lot of heavy fighting that hadn’t been seen up to that point,” he said.

“There were a lot of negative things and some positive things that came out of it.

Many people still struggle with the effects of what they have seen, experienced, and had to do. A big factor in the current situation is that there is not much support for those in need.

“Psychology studies show that it can take five to 15 years for the brain to actually calculate the trauma, so more is needed for people to calm down. is.

“As a charity, we try to teach people different ways to calm their minds and calculate what they see.”

Paul was involved in heavy frontline fighting with British forces in Afghanistan (Photo: Paul Minter/Heads Up)

Twenty years ago today, the first airstrikes were launched in Iraq, dubbed “Operation Shock and Awe” by the Department of Defense.

The next day, allied forces led by the United States and Britain launched a major invasion. This portended the arrest of Saddam Hussein, a bloody riot and years of instability that continues to this day.

Paul’s involvement came when he participated in a covert surveillance operation in the south of the country as the second head of a four-man reconnaissance team. Missions included laying on rooftops, in bushes, and setting up cameras on rivers between Iraq and Iraq. Iran The latter narrowly evades detection by security forces.

Iraq is part of a charity chief’s outreach that has witnessed hundreds of shootouts and the murder of friends.

“There was a lot of fighting going on around the skyscrapers, and every time we moved as a convoy, two or three vehicles would get hit. It was a lucky moment,” Paul said. .

“It puts a lot of stress on the mind.

British forces paid a heavy price in Iraq after Tony Blair made the decision to join the US-led invasion in 2003 (Photo: File image from Getty Images Europe)

“I was in an oversight role, so I saw and saw these things happening, but I didn’t really have much of an impact on it.

“Even though the rebels were settled and trapped and ready to attack the British and US forces, I had to sit back and watch everything unfold. If our troops were under constant indirect fire, we would see mortars and artillery shells coming in in large numbers.

“Sometimes we got hit directly, but it was very hard to tell.”

A New Zealand soldier named Paul and Brett in Kabul, Afghanistan, during his time as a soldier in the Household Cavalry (Photo: Paul Minter/Heads Up)

Paul from East Ham, London Afghanistantook another heavy toll on the British in casualties and lasting mental wounds.

His experience included being involved in daily combat in Helmand Province, where he was deployed with the first British forces in the area.

One fatal incident in 2006, when he was a 20-year-old gunner, reflected the combat stress that troops redeployed to support reconstruction suffered when they were caught in a fierce firefight with the Taliban. is showing.

“We were ambushed very badly and unfortunately three people died instantly,” Paul said.

Another one was seriously injured with 80% burns. The three of us survived, but had to fight our way out. bottom.

Paul was mentioned in Dispatch for his bravery, but one of his biggest fights took place away from the battlefield (Photo: Paul Minter/Heads Up)

“Even on vacation, I didn’t have much time to reflect, because I was in Iraq just a few months later.

“I love the military and am a big supporter of it, but like many industries, we need to do a little more to address the trauma that individuals can suffer later in life.”

Paul was awarded a Mention on Dispatch in 2011 for his bravery.

But eight years later, when he fell into a deep depression and suffered from severe paranoia, anxiety, and other symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the darker side of his service came to him. caught up.

He wasn’t the only one with heart problems.

A string of friends, including soldiers and veterans, took their own lives on a seemingly weekly basis.

20 years after the invasion of Iraq

The invasion of Iraq began on March 19, 2003 with a barrage of airstrikes entitled Operation Shock and Awe.

The ground forces of the US- and British-led invasion began the next day, and coalition forces reached Baghdad by 9 April.

Then-U.S. President George W. Bush declared victory the following month and framed the War on Terror that began on 9/11. However, bloody riots continued to fight across the country.

The rise of ISIS would also mark another tragic chapter in post-invasion Iraqi history. The terrorist groups’ territorial control was eventually broken by a global coalition, but they still pose a threat to the world.

British combat forces withdrew from Iraq in July 2009.

In total, 179 British military personnel and DoD civilians died between the start of the operation and its withdrawal.

Paul was medically discharged in 2020 and said he was able to see bright skies again after “a lot of hard work, digging deep and soul searching” with the help of “great individuals in the military.”

On his first day as a citizen, he started fundraising for charity. This made him run his 5,000 miles of the English coastline in his 218 days.

heads up, He runs it full-time and aims to stop suicide within the military community and raise mental health awareness by helping individuals build a positive mindset.

“The five of us who started this charity have lost many friends to suicide. I agree that it will not go away.

“At the moment it is still happening every day, every week, so more needs to be done. is required.

Paul wants the government to do more to support the mental health of soldiers and veterans (Photo: Paul Minter/Heads Up)

One of the purposes of charity is to create “demilitarization”. country retreat At Worcestershire, guests can participate in a 7-day residential course aimed at mental health.

“As a charity, we teach people how to improve their holistic mindset and health through meditation, breathing exercises, understanding nutrition, and more.

“We offer different types of therapies, such as cold water, nature, and music, to help you feel more positive than negative.

“It may be just for a day, or just during a residency course, but the aim is to make them feel better on a daily basis and to soothe any souls that may have been traumatized by their experiences in the military. .meaningful change.

To contact Samaritan, call us toll-free on 116 123 or click here. gentleman

Veterans app also available gentleman

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