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Sunday, 6 November 2016

Mandygist Exclusive; As We Mourn Our Fallen Heroes Lt. Col Abu Ali Muhammad and Four Others, a Call for Self Reflection and Action

News of the death of Lt. Col. Abu Muhammad Ali and 4 other soldiers who died in an ambush by the book haram terrorist group has left many Nigerians in a rude shock. May the Lord rest his soul and that of those who have died fighting the same cause in eternal peace and heal the survivors.

It is heart-breaking! As we receive the bodies of the extra ordinary men who paid the ultimate price, we need to have a candid reflection on how we have treated families of our departed soldiers in the past. My sleep has been murdered since receiving this heartbreaking news!

As we mourn the loss as a nation, it is critical that we look beyond the statistics and recognise that the soldiers were beloved members of families and communities that have been hit hard by the loss of their  lives. 

We need to ask tough questions: 
Do our past actions demonstrate the fact that we really care about deployed soldiers and veterans? 
Have we done enough for the families that have lost loved ones on the kbattlefield? 
Do we have a structured process through which their dependants can be fully supported?
Are we adequately supportive of soldiers who have suffered shattering injuries in line of duty? 
Are our soldiers properly supported to deal with the trauma they face on the battlefield?

Indeed, it is a fact that many veteran soldiers who have returned home after suffering devastating injuries in the line of duty end up living like paupers. It is heart-breaking that after risking everything for us, they end up not feeling appreciated by the very people they risked everything to protect!

In dealing with this matter, we need not just point fingers at the government but at ourselves as well. There is a lot we can do to support our soldiers and their families.

We can learn from others. In the US, for example, a citizen-led initiative known as Soldiers’ Angels provides aid and comfort to members of the army and their families. The mantra of the group is “May No Soldier Go Unloved”.

To date, volunteers from Soldiers’ Angels have sent hundreds of thousands of care packages and millions of letters and cards to “adopted” deployed service members. So far, they have supplied the wounded with over 25,000 First Response Backpacks and provided care and comfort to those in State military facilities.

Learning from the story of Soldiers’ Angels, here are some ideas that we can use to support our heroes as citizen they die to protect.

First, we should set up initiatives to ensure our returning soldiers are publicly acknowledged for their contribution.

They need to feel appreciated. In the US, whenever returning soldiers land, they receive a standing ovation from hundreds of by-standers at the airport. This show of love makes the returning soldiers immediately feel their sacrifice is recognised.

When was the last time you physically appreciated a soldier for keeping our nation safe? Secondly, it is not enough to commiserate with soldiers on social media. We need to think of creative ways in which we can let them know we appreciate them. How about “adopting” deployed soldiers and communicating with them regularly?

Most of our wounded soldiers are taken to military hospitals but hardly anyone follows up to know whether the treatment they receive is adequate.

There are a number of ways in which we can support the soldiers to make a full recovery, including galvanising financial backing to support cases where treatment abroad is required.

We have done it for civilians, why not for the brave soldiers? Again, the most affected people when a soldier falls is the family and often they are left on their own immediately their loved one is buried.

We need to set up initiatives to ensure comfort for such families. There are numerous ways we can do this, including setting up visitation teams and delivering household supplies for the families.

We can also “adopt” military families that have lost their loved ones and ensure their basic needs are met continuously. Finally, we need to push for policies that will ensure our soldiers and their families are well protected. The policies should ensure proper compensation for deployed soldiers and veterans.

Further, soldiers need to be provided with a comprehensive insurance package that covers all risks. We owe our soldiers a huge debt of gratitude.

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