Afghanistan hero sues army over lack of care

Forgotten? L/Bdr Parkinson’s mother says his pay has decreased since he was injured. © Getty

How should we react? Is Britain a nation that can ruthlessly discard one of its wounded soldiers, as the Mail on Sunday says? Or is the story more complicated than it seems?

Helmand Province, Afghanistan, 2006. The War on Terror is at its peak, and this is its deadly heart.

Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, 21, is driving along a deserted road when he hits an anti-tank mine planted by the Taliban. His humble Land Rover stands no chance.

L/Bdr Parkinson suffered 40 injuries, including brain damage and the loss of both his legs. He was never expected to survive the explosion, but his 12-year recovery has astounded doctors. He has learned to walk and talk again.

And so he was proclaimed as a national hero. In 2012 he carried the Olympic Torch through his home town of Doncaster. A year later he was awarded an MBE, with the Prince of Wales calling the soldier an “inspiration”. He was allowed to stay in uniform and has been held up as an example of the military’s commitment to wounded troops.

The story, however, does not end there. The Mail on Sunday has revealed that Parkinson is now suing the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after claiming that his pay was cut, putting his medical treatment in jeopardy and failing to provide him with wheelchairs.

Speaking on his behalf, his mother said: “…the MoD is supposed to provide Ben’s wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs and specialist medical services not available to us locally on the NHS. We have learned that…charities have provided two of Ben’s wheelchairs from funds donated by the public. This was a deception on their part.”

Shame on the MoD! cried many. Lions led by donkeys!

Or is it? L/Bdr Parkinson has received a lot of help. He was given £570,000, which he used to buy a house, and is still being paid by the Army despite not currently serving in combat. One comment under the Mail on Sunday piece accused him of “greed”, adding that “he signed up for the job”.

The MoD also paid for his treatment at an NHS hospital; some believe the necessary treatment was also available at Headley Court military hospital, meaning that L/Bdr Parkinson is costing the Army unnecessary money.

How should we react to this story?

Two sides

With anger, say some. L/Bdr Parkinson deserves nothing but the best from the Army, and yet he was forced to rely on a charity to secure a basic necessity like a wheelchair. If soldiers swear an oath to queen and country, then the state should respond by pledging a commitment of absolute care. This is a classic case of heartless penny-pinching.

With caution, say others. Things are never as simple as they seem. Do you really think the army is a callous organisation that treats wounded soldiers with contempt? They are spending millions opening a new Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre. It is much more likely that this dispute is the result of incompetence or misunderstanding. Do not be too quick to judge.

You Decide

  1. How should we react to this story?
  2. Does incompetence explain much of what is wrong in the world?

Activities

  1. List five tips you would give a friend on how to judge whether an article is biased.
  2. Using the Expert Links, research this story in greater detail and write 500 words on how fair you think Ben Parkinson’s claim is.

Some People Say...

“Soldiers generally win battles; generals get credit for them.”

Napoleon Bonaparte

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Ben Parkinson, having lost both legs and suffered brain damage in Afghanistan, made a miraculous recovery and is now suing the Ministry of Defence for not taking good enough care of him. We know that the MoD and the NHS reached an agreement to share the cost of Parkinson’s treatment, and he is being treated in NHS hospitals. We know, however, that charity provided for some of Parkinson’s care as well.
What do we not know?
Whether Parkinson and his family will win their claim. We also do not know why Parkinson isn’t receiving treatment at Headley Court military hospital. His injuries were extremely severe, but are no longer life-threatening, as he canoed 250 miles in northern Canada last year.

Word Watch

Helmand Province
Located in the south of Afghanistan, Helmand Province was and remains the country’s most dangerous province. It also provides the most heroin of any province in the country.
40 injuries
In addition to losing his legs and suffering a serious brain injury, Parkinson also sustained fractures to his skull, cheekbone, nose, jaw, pelvis, vertebrae and suffered serious damage to his spleen and chest. He is reportedly one of the most seriously injured soldiers to have ever survived a combat incident.
Olympic Torch
Prior to London hosting the 2012 Olympics, the Olympic Torch was carried around 8,000 miles of the country by 8,000 different bearers.
Speaking on his behalf
As a serving soldier, Parkinson is not allowed to talk to the media.
Lions led by donkeys
This phrase is popularly used to describe the British infantry of the First World War, blaming their deaths on the stupidity of their generals. This interpretation of history remains highly disputed.

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