|Your National Service ended forty, thirty or twenty years ago but its impact on you has not.
Without choice you reported for service to a base far removed from your family home in terms of distance and culture. At seventeen or eighteen your childhood came to an abrupt end with the harsh reality of basic training. Discomfort and physical hardship became your lot. Compared to the lifestyle of the modern teenager, the differences are stark.
Sergeant Majors and corporals regularly turned care free youngsters into able bodied disciplined men in the space of twelve weeks. The food may not have appetising and the accommodation was probably not comfortable. An understatement I know. Training was physically tough and dangerous. No responsible parent would let a teenager handle a hand grenade
After specialising you went onto to serve in various units, including those on the South West Africa and Mozambique borders. Some gigs were tougher than others. Many saw action. Some never came home.
Most National Service Veterans still have important unanswered questions and we hope to provide you with some answers and assistance in this debriefing.
How is it still impacting you?
Many veterans (yes, you are an official war vet) experience symptoms that become more acute with age. Do you get depressed? Do you get angry quickly? Do loud noises get your full attention and cause stress? Do sounds, noises, smells and images remind you of your service? Do you have bad dreams about the military? Do you still suffer from an old injury? Do thoughts of your service trouble you?
The causes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder stem not only from the experience of combat but also exposure to the end result of combat, stress of defending a position even if it was not attacked, walking patrol in a hot area and indeed from intense realistic training, etc.
Then there’s the positive side. You learnt vasbyt and how to take criticism. You became fitter, wiser and more mature. Your confidence increased and you learnt to look after yourself. You knew that you were capable of doing more than you thought you could.
Those who did Junior Leaders benefitted from the most practical hands on leadership course in the world with instructors available 24/7 for 9 months to inspect, criticise, evaluate and teach. And of course you learnt to lead.
The military is a great leveller. You learnt about people from different social backgrounds and persuasions.
The ongoing impact is indeed both negative and positive.
Was it necessary?
We are not politicians and from a political point of view this question may be debated for years to come.
From a military point of view: Absolutely.
The trigger to the Angolan war was the deployment of foreign troops in a neighbouring country (Angola) aiming to escalate the armed insurgency into South West Africa.
No responsible Country would sit back and watch.
The countries of origin of these foreign troops were communist, a doctrine that was alien to our own values of freedom and independent thought. Of course we acknowledge with great remorse that our own government did not extend the exercise of these values to the majority of the South African population.
Why did it end?
In spite of assertions to the contrary, Communism was a major factor. Our struggle was in part against the ideological spread of communism.
The Berlin Wall fell in 1990. Communism collapsed in the Soviet Union in 1991. National Service ended shortly thereafter in 1992 in part because the South African Government no longer felt vulnerable to this threat.
Did you waste your time?
Your service directly or indirectly helped bring about the collapse of Communism. If the Soviet Union had access to Southern African produce, minerals and wealth then the Wests struggle with Communism may have been extended for a far longer period.
From this point of view you participated in a Just War.
Are these answers old SADF propaganda?
You decide! The first casualty of war is truth. War is horror and its reasons are a mess of opinions.
Whatever you decide it is important to know this: The war was not your fault! The combat, firefights, killing, incidents and accidents were not your fault. None of it.
Did you do a good job?
For a conscript Army, Navy and Air Force without the luxury of extended training and unlimited resources you did an excellent job.
You answered the call with courage and vigour. You participated in the risk and the danger. You put your life on the line for and with your comrades.
Yes, you did a great job with honour.
Have you been forgotten?
During your National Service we took our leadership and your welfare very seriously. Now twenty, thirty or forty years later we are still as concerned about your well-being and the CMVO are leading endeavours to secure benefits for those who need it.
What is the CMVO?
The CMVO is the short name for the Council of Military Veterans Organizations which in essence is a management body for all the recognised military veterans’ organisations of the SADF/SANDF military veterans. The CMVO is represented by military veterans from the statutory forces, some who were very high-ranking while still in active services, and who now make their time available on a volunteer basis to influence and lobby the government to provide benefits to our needy military veterans, including former National Servicemen, Commandos, Citizen Force and PF’s
The CMVO is leading a determined campaign to influence and persuade the Department of Military Veterans to make substantial benefits available to all needy military veterans from the statutory forces too
We are assisting our military veterans with the process to register on the National Database for Military Veterans administered by the government through the Department of Military Veterans and also with the subsequent verification of your registration. Both these steps must be completed before you can make application for any of the benefits provided for in terms of the Military Veterans Act, 2011 (No 18 of 2011)
Now what are these benefits? If you qualify in terms of the prescribed criteria you can gain access to burial support, housing, health care, pension, subsidisation or provisioning of public transport, facilitation of or advice on business opportunities, facilitation of employment placement, education, training and skills development, honouring and memorialising fallen military veterans, dedicated counselling and treatment to military veterans who suffer from serious mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder or related conditions as well as compensation to military veterans who sustained disabling injuries or severe psychological and neuro-traumatic trauma or who suffer from a terminal disease resulting from their participation in military activities
This is a real mouthful, but if you want more details about these benefits please mail the CMVO at email@example.com or phone us at 012-355 2907 during office hours. You can also check elsewhere on this website for more detail on these benefits
We are all getting older so it’s important to register before your personal need becomes too great. This process can also take a long time to complete and you must be prepare yourself to hurry up and wait like in the old days, but we urge you to persevere with your application and verification until your name appears on the National Database for Military Veterans. Keep in mind that there are tens of thousands applications getting processed…and your application is part of it
If you are fortunate enough to be a veteran who does not require any assistance whatsoever then we encourage you to register with the Department of Military Veterans to extend and bolster our influence with the Department of Military Veterans. That way you directly help us to secure the benefits required by veterans in need.
Must you join a recognised military veteran’s organization to receive these benefits?
No, you do not have to be a member of one of the recognised military veterans organizations affiliated to the CMVO to register on the National Database for Military Veterans and to apply for the benefits
However, if you served in the infantry for instance you may be able to link up with many of your old buddies if you join the SA Infantry Association. You can also help create a network for the other military veterans in your area and spread the news about the new dispensation created for military veterans which allows for benefits for the veterans from the statutory forces
Your involvement as a former national serviceman can bring new ideas and energy to these recognised military veterans organizations and through your commitment you can expand the representation and influence of the military veterans from the statutory forces within the structures that were put in place put for all military veterans in our country