Tragic incident highlights care for war veterans

Czech soldiers in Afghanistan, photo: archive of Czech Army

The recent incident in Afghanistan, which claimed the lives of three Czech soldiers stationed in the country as part of NATO’s mission, has opened up several questions, including how the Czech Republic cares for its modern-day war veterans and whether it does enough to help them re-integrate into society once they have left the army.

Czech soldiers in Afghanistan,  photo: archive of Czech Army
Since 2002, more than 9,000 Czech soldiers have served in Afghanistan and several thousand undertook missions in other countries. At the moment, there are over 800 Czech soldiers serving abroad, most of them in Afghanistan, Mali, and Iraq and the Czech military presence should be further reinforced this year to over 1,000 people overall.

Miroslava Pašková, founder of the Vlčí Máky or Poppy Seeds organisation, which provides legal, social and financial support to war veterans, says the public attitude towards soldiers serving on foreign missions is gradually improving but the Ministry of Defence should do more to help them reintegrate into normal life after they leave the army:

“In the Czech Republic the care for war veterans is not complex enough. The Ministry of Defence focuses mainly on veterans from the Second World War and the Third Resistance.

“But since 1990, 16,000 to 17,000 soldiers aged 25 to 60 have been through various foreign and humanitarian missions.

“The Defence Ministry is not doing any proper monitoring of their situation and doesn’t provide them with complex care.”

The Poppy Seed organisation was founded four and a half years ago and among other things, it has been helping soldiers find new employment, which proves to be one of the most difficult tasks for them. Miroslava Pašková again:

“Czech soldiers usually serve for eight to 15 years, so it is often impossible for them to return to their previous field of expertise. They often want to continue serving the country, so we try to help them do that.

“We also help them solve financial problems and personal problems. Many of them spend a long time away from their families so their relationships are often strained. We even helped three veterans, who couldn’t cope with the situation and ended up on the streets.”

Czech and coalition troops farewell to their three Czech comrades,  who died on August 5 in a suicide bomber assault in Afghanistan,  photo: ČTK/PR/Armáda ČR
In 2014, the Defence Ministry established a Military Solidarity Fund, to help war veterans cope with unexpected life situations and support the relatives of deceased or injured soldiers.

After the attack in Afghanistan on Sunday, which claimed the lives of three Czech soldiers, the fund established a special public collection in support of their families, which has so far collected over one million crowns.

Since 1991, 28 Czech soldiers have been killed while undertaking missions abroad. Thirteen soldiers were killed in Afghanistan, with the first casualty in 2007. The deadliest attack so far happened in July 2014 in Afghanistan, claiming five lives. Thirteen soldiers have died on duty in the former Yugoslavia and another two Czech soldiers were killed in Iraq.