A FORMER soldier has spoken of his struggle to return to civilian life after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Kevin Lovell was dismissed from the Army earlier this year for fighting with a civilian in a Wrexham nightclub and received a jail sentence for the attack.
He told the Leader he is trying to turn his life around but is struggling due to his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Kevin, 26, blames the attack on his condition and says he thinks he will suffer from it for the rest of his life. He also believes he has lost his friends, job and house because of it.
He said: “What triggered it for me was when I went to Iraq and my mate Steve Jones died.
“I started getting treatment for PTSD and then I went to Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009.
“We kept getting shot at and I started having bad nightmares. When I got back I had PTSD very badly.”
He added: “It’s been difficult. I couldn’t walk down the street because I thought Iraqis were going to attack me.
“I try to protect my family and myself – I think if I don’t get them, they’ll get us.
“I feared for my life, I was too scared to go out the house.”
The former First Battalion Royal Welsh soldier was asked to leave the Army following the court case.
He had been living in Dale Barracks in Chester with his pregnant wife Karla so had to find somewhere new to live.
“I was living on the streets for a month,” said Kevin. “My wife went to her mum’s but I didn’t feel comfortable staying there because of my PTSD. I wanted to be on my own.”
Kevin, who originally lived in Wrexham, has now found a house in Flint thanks to the Royal British Legion.
“If it wasn’t for the help I received from the British Legion I don’t know where I’d be,” added Kevin.
Mike Greenwood, district manager for Royal British Legion North Wales, said:
“PTSD is a growing problem and the symptoms don’t appear straight away.
“We work very closely with the charity Combat Stress and often refer people to them.
“We’re seeing more and more young veterans coming to us. ‘Veterans’ is a strange phrase as people tend to think it’s older people but someone in their 20s who has left the Army is still classed as a veteran.
“People often don’t realise donations made to us go to help young veterans.
“We’re trying to get people to make that connection when they give to the Poppy Appeal.”
Kevin is now receiving counselling through a doctor and is also on anti-depressants and sleeping tablets.
He said: “I think I will always have to have medication. I have to take tablets otherwise I walk around all night because I can’t sleep.
“I think I’d kill myself if it weren’t for the medication.”
Kevin says he now regrets joining the Army and feels it did not give him enough support with his PTSD once he left.
“Why did I put my life on the line for the Army? If it wasn’t for the British Legion giving me the deposit for the house I’d still be homeless.
“I’m finding it hard to find a job. I’ve got no training other than the Army and find it hard to work because of noises.
“If I hear the slightest bang I’m down on all fours.”
Kevin says he would like to do a forklift truck course, but cannot afford the cost of £600.
He is currently receiving Jobseekers Allowance but says he hates not working.
Kevin says PTSD nearly lost him his wife as well.
He explained: “I used to lock her in a cupboard at night time to try and protect her. She moved away for a while but we’re back together now. She helps calm me down.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “Any soldier who falls short of the Army’s high standards or who is found to have broken the law will be subject to the disciplinary process up to and including discharge.”
He added: “The MoD is determined to ensure our Armed Forces receive the best mental health care available and we are constantly looking to improve the services they receive.
“Earlier this month we announced plans to improve outreach work and access to mental health services for veterans, including the introduction of 30 mental health nurses and a 24-hour counselling and support helpline.
“All veterans experiencing mental health difficulties are entitled to access these services.”
See full story in the Leader