Renewed: 01.06.2014, 23:16

21 April 2014 23:13

Veterans have much to give the community

Veterans have much to give the community Veterans have much to give the community

Major General Riho Terras' article in Postimees defence supplement Riigikaitse.EE, Published April 21, 2014

Almost twenty years ago – 1995 – the first Estonian troops were deployed on a mission to Croatia. At the time few thought that in the next twenty years we would be sending our soldiers to the most difficult war zones.

Today over 2500 men and women have participated in operations abroad. This is a force to be reckoned with - Estonian veterans are among us at work, are fellow students, are in the community were we live and among our friends, who we communicate with.

With the Afghanistan operation coming to an end, Estonia has promised to contribute to operations where international assistance is needed - conflicts will not disappear from the world.

Every year we add new veterans to our ranks with their own joys and worries. Last year we adopted our veterans policy which guarantees that society recognizes individuals who have with gun in hand, fought for Estonia, been wounded, and lost their lives. Veterans will remain with us for many years - war experienced officers, non-commissioned officers, reservists as well as the war wounded.

The nation of Estonia spends two percent of its Gross Domestic Product fo military. The contribution of veterans is significantly bigger - with some unfortunately 100 percent. National securities,  opportunity to apply for a Kredex guaranteed loan, attain a higher education, receive an additional percentage with your pension - there is hands-on national assistance to all that have fought for Estonia.

Evolving support system

Our nation has already done much to ensure that injured Defence Forces members can manage well in life. We still have a lot to accomplish - the development of support systems is only at a beginning phase. Injured Defence Forces members are generally young and strong men-women, who have still much to accomplish in life - their injuries should not scare or keep them away from society.

They can currently receive high quality prostheses, attend rehabilitation treatment in England, the Defence Forces guarantees them a job. We try to assist injured warriors by finding suitable athletic activities. Two severely wounded veterans- Master Sergeant Egberd Erreline and Sergeant Ott Jõesaar are good examples how one can continue in the service, they have even been on international operations after their injuries.

Yet, the majority of wounded veterans admit that the most important recognition is a good word from fellow citizens and society. Veterans have much to contribute to society - the cornflower campaign, initiated by the Wounded Warriors Association, uses donations to purchase walking robots at East Central Tallinn hospital for injured soldiers. All Estonians, not only the war wounded can use these assistance systems.

We can all contribute by buying a cornflower. With assistance from the United States we are about to create a rehabilitation centre for all prosthesis users. A future master technician in prosthetics is a fellow war amputee, who knows very well the worries of injured individuals.

The life and work experiences of veterans make them decision making leaders, good co-workers and teachers. Our Allies have valued the deliberation of our soldiers as well their ability to understand the situation of the peoples in Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe that for any employer they are able bodied, decision capable emphatic employees, whom we can rely on.

As a small nation, it is imperative that Estonia is taken as an equal partner. We must show that we are able take responsibilities and fulfill them. As a nation whose security is reliant very much on the effective operations of NATO, it is important that the Allied nations are able to jointly act, plan and carry out operations. In light of the events in Ukraine we have had confirmation that the Estonian Defence Forces is an equal partner - we discuss openly with the other Chiefs of Defence of our Allies about events taking place in the world and if necessary, can ask for support and assistance, being ready at the same to support them as well.

Invaluable skills

We would never have dreamed of such a trusting relationship had it not been for the contribution of our Defence Forces members who served with our Allies. The current Commanders of the large nation armies commanded units in Afghanistan and Iraq where our soldiers belonged a few years ago - our soldiers are remembered.

In preparation to defend Estonia it is imperative that soldiers are able to make correct decisions in combat and carry them through. You can study that for tens of years but until you have experienced combat and made decisions, you can never be sure that you would be competent in such an extreme situation. These types of experiences have been received by many in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those that continue their service, pass on their experience to others. We know that for those that have left the service, we now have combat experienced reservists.

To have a high combat readiness it is necessary to have discipline and battle preparedness as well as knowledge of in what name are we fighting, it is equally important for soldiers in a small unit with whom you are shoulder to shoulder together in the fight as well as in society who you are fighting for. The respect of society is necessary for veterans; they appreciate your support and give back their efforts so that our nation would survive.

Last year Veterans Day events received a warm welcome from the members of the Defence Forces as well as the general public, our parliament is weighing on declaring the day an official national holiday. Raise the flags now for Veterans Day and support in word and in action the veterans that have fought for Estonian independence.

Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces, 717 1900, mil[at]mil.ee, Juhkentali 58, EE15007, Tallinn, Estonia.

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