TechVets The Podcast: Remembrance Special

TechVets The Podcast: Remembrance Special

Meredyth Grant

Welcome to TechVets, the podcast. A show dedicated to exploring the world of tech and cyber security through the eyes of industry leaders and ex forces personnel.   

In this podcast we’re marking Remembrance 2021. Joining us is TechVets ambassador General Sir Richard Barrons who is former Commander of Joint Forces Command, Alistair Halliday CEO of RFEA – The Forces Employment Charity and James Murphy, CEO TechVets; all interviewed by Charlie Jacoby.

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Here’s what you’ll hear in this podcast:

Charlie Jacoby, Broadcast Journalist: CJ

James Murphy, CEO TechVets: JM

General Sir Richard Barrons KCB CBE ADC Gen (former British Army) TechVets Ambassador: SRB

Alistair Halliday, CEO RFEA (former Royal Navy Commodore): AH

CJ: Remembrance is about the memorial to events that took place in wars. However, in recent years it has become broader, reaching into the realms of mental health of veterans and their struggles after traumatic events. It reminds people that life is fragile, war does have major consequences, and it should only be treated as a last resort. 

  • SRB: The country needs to remember that war was part of our past and will be part of our future. It is an opportunity to reflect on the cost of war although sometimes necessary should never be taken lightly as the consequences to individuals and society is terrible. It is an opportunity for people like me who have served for 40 years to remember comrades who have died or suffered life altering injuries.
  • AH: Remembrance is the one time of the year that everyone in the nation, from leaders to the royal family, take part in sombre reflection. It is also a positive, personal, and moving time of reflection, especially for veterans and servicemen & women, to remember comrades, friends and colleagues who have lost their lives. Although remembrance is a sombre reflection period, it is also greatly beneficial for veterans to reconnect with other veterans and talk about their personal experiences.
  • JM: My family has always been big in remembering the great wars, when I joined the service, it became even more personal as during my first deployment in Afghanistan we lost a number of comrades from ages 19-23 y/o. It is also a time for veterans suffering from mental health ailments such as PTSD to face their struggles together with their comrades by their side who understand. 

CJ: What does remembrance do for the wider community?

  • AH: Not many people have a connection with the armed forces, thus there was fear that the community were not resonating and forgetting. However, there has been a great effort in the last 20 years, especially in schools, after the casualties in Afghanistan and the increase in organisations such as Help for Heroes and the Suns campaigns have brought back the understanding of the major sacrifices of servicemen and women. It is important that veterans continue to talk about their experiences and the importance of their service. 
  • SRB: People in our country do not have any sense of existential peril. They are not afraid of invasion or war. When the nation isn’t committed to military operations that incur casualties it slips away from the public conscious. We need to be aware that if the business of war is forgotten, the notion of war becomes glamorous and new as society has forgotten the major consequences of such an event making it easier to resort to war in the future. The younger generations of today are likely to face existential peril as the world fight against its own planet, and the safety and sense of certainty that a US led era provided slowly evaporates. Therefore, remembrance is so important as insecurity of the future becomes a reality, war may be necessary, but it should be brought about with great understanding of the consequences. 

CJ: So, remembrance is a social insurance policy. Would you say it instils a sense of respect from society? 

  • SRB: Society needs to respect war otherwise the consequences will be forgotten. War leaves mental and physical scars; it damages families and leaves a history of sorrow. This is the price of having to fight and it is non-negotiable.

CJ: 12 years ago, remembrance was used by the government to popularise unpopular actions that occurred overseas. Have we got remembrance back on the right track for wider society?

  • JM: The government was moreso carrying on the tradition of remembrance when in the media there were counter arguments in regards to it which spread very quickly due to social media. The sense of community within the military has strengthened especially since the pandemic. The wider society are now seeing military personnel as individuals who are just doing them job instead of categorising them with the bad political decisions of the country’s leaders. The narrative of remembrance was just changing on the surface, strength within the community was never lost. 
  • SRB: The notion of remembrance is pulled in two different directions, one is the glorification of war and the second it gets related with pacificism. Remembrance recognises that war is terrible and must be the last resort, but sometimes is necessary. Remembrance should not imply that we will never fight, because it will happen again, and should not be thought of as a glorifying act. 

CJ: Is remembrance now used as a platform to talk about the welfare of veterans.

  • SRB: Remembrance has changed slightly in its delivery. Elements of the consequences of war and the military that are suffered by veterans (mental health, physical injuries, disabilities) should probably be brought up around remembrance, especially for the benefit of civilians who cannot relate to and have no connection with the military. It should not be used as a platform, but moreso an opportunity to communicate to the public especially through charities. 
  • AH: The remembrance event is a reminder of the states obligation to take care of its veterans by encouraging society to donate to charities. It highlights the partnership between the services, charities, and state to look after veterans. We shouldn’t believe that the consequences of war are small because of recent experience of very low casualty rate in the last 10 years due to the potential of future wars with greater and more dangerous technologies.
  • SRB: Remembrance is very different to other countries. 
  • Military is seen as victims, but they don’t want to be seen as the victim, veterans don’t want to be seen as victims
  • JM: In TechVets we take a frontfoot approach with the TechVets community. Veterans have a great skill range, traits, attitudes from their time served in the forces that assist in providing jobs within the cyber security sector. They are treated as assets to businesses, not victims. 
  • AH: The resilience, team skills, management, discipline, and talent of veterans is how and why veterans are great for companies and these attributes alone are why they are successful, they’re not victims that should be treated like a charity. However, those that are more vulnerable that need more support, but it shouldn’t remove the main message that veterans can offer great attributes to companies through their experiences in the armed forces.
  • JM: Veterans are vulnerable after leaving the armed forces because of lack of experience in civilian job hunting, thus TechVets makes the transition easier.
  • SRB: Veterans not understanding their skill set and abilities, they go into jobs that don’t utilise their skills and experience. Employers should be fighting to employ veterans due to their skill set and ability to deliver and provide great work and growth.
  • AH: Due to the pandemic organisations weren’t hiring, there are now more job vacancies. Worried that soon there will be a surplus of unemployed veterans that cannot get a job from job shortage. 
  • JM: Underemployment is a big worry. The archaic process doesn’t encourage job searching in the last year of their contract with the military. TechVets use their time to educate companies, employers, sectors, industries about the benefits of hiring veterans. TechVets also get these companies to showcase they want veterans which in turn boosts the morale and confidence of veterans that civilian companies want to employ them. This cycle serves itself. The way we approach a crisis is calm and manageable which makes people feel confident and this has been shown through the pandemic. Employers respect that aspect of the military.
  • SRB: Veterans have an enormous amount to offer from ages 20-40 y/o they have the ability to be trained and possess the skills to even take a leadership role or take over the company. From ages 50+ most thought they’d retire; however, they’re now working for another 15 years. Remembrance can be used to appreciate the full range of veterans and what they have to offer as well as the past consequences of war.

CJ: Where will you spend remembrance this year?

  • SRB: I will be in London as a gunner at the Royal Regiment of Artillery Remembrance Parade at Hyde Park corner. I will think about the million gunners that served in the second and first WW, the people I served with over 30-40 years, and then a reunion with my mates.
  • AH: I will go to the festival of Remembrance on the Saturday which is a very moving event. A week before that I will part of the corporate allegiance in our local Sainsburys, as I enjoy it and I can talk about it with my civilian friends. On Sunday I will be in my local Church. I am quite happy to be doing it at home now after doing it in many Ports in the past. 
  • JM: I have a number of different events I will be attending over the course of the week. I will catch up with a lot of friends as well, remembering those we have lost to suicide from PTSD as well as those that didn’t make it home. We will do something meaningful to ensure my two boys have a good day that reflects the positive attributes of the military community. 

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