A desperate cry for help resulted in the strangest and most poignant job interview ever as well as a clearer view of a road ahead for a former soldier who is now reaching out to the Ministry of Defence for more help for troubled veterans returning from war-torn tours of duty.
Former infantryman Jason Verez, who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and had been made redundant from his civilian job as a kennel manager, had been standing on a motorway bridge over the M23 in Surrey for an hour when Gary Knight, managing director of Horley Road Services, drove past.
Extending the hand of compassion and an offer of help, as well as the swift intervention of the police, succeeded in pulling Jason away from the abyss.
A ‘thank-you’ phone call later resulted in Jason becoming a full time driver for Horley Road Services, part of the Pallet-Track network.
“When I saw him standing on the bridge, I stopped the car and went over. When I asked him if he was planning to do what I thought he was going to do, he said ‘yes’ and asked me not to come any closer,” said Gary, who lives in Gravesend, Kent.
“However, we got chatting and I told him this was not the solution, especially when he told me he had a wife and young family. Talking seemed to help as we both stood there in floods of tears.
“After a while, he allowed me to call the police who arrived very quickly and he agreed to come away from the edge of the bridge. When he went with the police I gave him my business card, and later on that night, he called me to say thank you.
“I offered him a job there and then – the chat on the bridge was the interview, it was all I needed to know about Jason, and he is now working in the business. He’s doing really well, but he still needs help. The offer is there for time off when he needs counselling sessions,” added Gary, who is also the managing director of North Kent Distribution.
But Jason is still waiting for the more PTSD counselling after his sessions with charity Combat Stress came to an end because of a cash crisis.
“There is nothing out there for someone like me who, years later, still has night terrors when I wake up screaming,” said Jason who is still troubled by incidents on his last tour of Afghanistan.
“Combat Stress offer initial help, but because of the financial limitations of the service, you only get a certain amount of sessions and then you are left to your own devices.
“This is not my first attempt at suicide. The last time my wife, Leanne, who has been absolutely brilliant, found me in time and I ended up in A&E for six days. I also spent time in a psychiatric unit, but I discharged myself. A&E is not a hotel and neither place was right for someone like me.”
While in Afghanistan, Jason’s team were an advance search team dealing with booby-trapped villages, where he saw colleagues killed or maimed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and the death of youngsters used as human shields or child soldiers.
“You can’t unsee those things so it is beholden on the armed services to help people like us to re-acclimatise to civilian life,”
“In one instance, on the day I was coming home on leave, I saw a friend lose his limbs to an IED. A few hours later I was at home in Surrey eating dinner with my parents – it was a bizarre contrast and all too much for me to comprehend – it was far from normal.”
Jason, who lives near Crawley and is now buying a new family home with Leanne, has reached out to the Secretary of State for Defence, Johnny Mercer MP, who has publically asked for returning soldiers to inform the Government as to their issues in order that the right level of funding can be provided to support traumatised veterans.
“I want to help people like me to be able to return to civilian life and lead as normal a life as possible, without the threat of them taking their own lives which has a terrible cost for families and is a damning indictment of the kind of society that we are,”
For more information about Pallet-Track, call 0870 385 0055 or visit www.pallet-track.co.uk.