Elfyn had a Westminster Hall debate on this issue on Tuesday, and also raised it as a PMQ yesterday. The response to this story has been amazing, and shows that he's truly touched on an important issue which affects people in every corner of the UK, and not just in Wales.
In case you haven't heard the story, Elfyn, along with Harry Fletcher from NAPO (National Association of Probation Officers) uncovered new evidence which suggests that at least 10 per cent of the current prison population are ex-servicemen - 8,500 people to be precise. We are really concerned about this figure, as it could turn out to be even higher. Indeed, the MOD and the MOJ haven't disputed these figures which suggest to us that we are right in thinking so. Many of these prisoners are suffering from PTSD or Gulf War syndrome which had been undiagnosed before the committed these offences. Many also suffer from serious drink and drug addictions, and don't even know why they committed the offences which have left them in prison.
Elfyn has made a very valid argument. Since we train soldiers for weeks and months before they are sent to war, we should also spend weeks de-briefing and helping them to adjust to life back at home. After all, we can only imagine what these people have been through. I certainly don't know how I'd cope if I'd seen a war zone and seen my friends killed.
What currently happens, from what we understand, that soldiers spend three or four days in Cyprus getting drunk before being flown home. They're asked in front of one another if anyone has any problems before being discharged. Do you honestly think that a macho soldier is going to admit in front of everyone that he's in need of help? Or even, that he'll realise himself that he needs help?
Support should be given so that ex-servicemen have easy access to counselling, and also support in terms of finding new employment and even somewhere to live. Many of them find it very difficult to adjust to life at home, and this is perfectly understandable. But just think of the impact this has on them, and also their families? Surely if we train them for war we should train them to cope with life afterwords?
Some people have said this week that its strange that Plaid Cymru is concerned about soldiers, given that we were against the war in Iraq. But that's completely unfair. We totally one hundred per cent support those soldiers who have been sent to fight, and want to see them treated properly. After all, in many areas in Wales, a career in the Army is the only option for many young men. Obviously, we'd like to see that change so that they have other choice and opportunities. But we're realistic as well. The UK government has a duty to look after the people who risk their lives on its behalf. Its an insult to all of them that they are not being treated fairly and I'm glad to see Elfyn speaking out on their behalf. Its about time someone did.