So I’ll admit that when I saw the headline, I avoided the story because - American that I am - I am not good at tolerating problems that don’t seem to have a solution. We hate quandaries that we can’t solve with some kind of fund-raising project.
Here’s the headline from The Daily Mail that made me avoid opening the story:
Wounded Iraq veterans driven out of public pool when told they might scare children
Ugh. I clicked to another page. No need to feel outrage over something thousands of miles away that I could not change. The headline stayed with me, though, and I thought of the soldiers and how embittering the experience must have been.
Then, we got an email from John at Average Gay Joe and that helpless feeling dissipated:
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Good evening... If you’ve heard of the appalling story about wounded Brit vets being jeered by some...ill-mannered members of the public let’s say, thanks to a reader at one of the blogs I post at, a link to an organization that is raising money for these guys has been found. I myself am putting something up at both sites I post at tomorrow when I update them. I’m hoping that the blogosphere can do something to help these guys! Please do what you can. Thanks.
AGJ enclosed two links, one to The Daily Mail, and another to The Telegraph.
Here is the Mail‘s version:
Soldiers who suffered appalling injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan were verbally abused as they swam in a public swimming pool.
During a weekly rehabilitation class at a council leisure centre, 15 servicemen - including several who have lost limbs or suffered severe burns - were heckled and jeered by members of the public.
One woman was so incensed that the troops were using the pool at Leatherhead Leisure Centre in Surrey that she told them they did not deserve to be there.
She became increasingly abusive, screaming that it was wrong for staff to rope off a lane exclusively for the injured personnel from the nearby Headley Court rehabilitation centre.
The swimmer, thought to be in her 30s, is understood to have said: "I pay to come here and swim - you lot don’t."
The abuse was witnessed by 79-year-old Korean War veteran Charles Murrin, who said yesterday: "I could not believe what she was saying.
"The lane was roped off, which they do every week. It wasn’t as if the pool was completely closed. Her group had the rest of the pool to swim in.
"She said the men do not deserve to be in there and that she pays money to come in the pool and they don’t."
The soldiers, who use the pool as part of a water therapy course, were quickly ordered out by their instructor to avoid further embarrassment.
Mr Murrin, who served in the Royal Navy, added: "I spoke to the instructor in the changing room afterwards and he was livid.
"I know what these people are going through, because I talk to them and I have got quite friendly with them."
Linda Sinclair, of Leatherhead, also witnessed the abuse.
She said: "It was a few people that were complaining and it made me cross. I really felt for those soldiers."
The incident, which took place on November 13, came as a national appeal was launched to raise £5million to build a new rehabilitation pool and gym at Headley Court.
The centre treats 180 injured servicemen who have to make a half-hour trip to Leatherhead to use the pool.
Last night, Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, a former infantry commander, told of his dismay at the incident.
He said: "It may well be that these people had paid for the use of the pool, but our soldiers have paid so much more for their country."
The bureaucrats said their meaningless phrases - the kind that have had all the blood and life wrung out of them:
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We are disappointed that a small number of people objected to the closure of swimming lanes so that patients of Headley Court could use them."
A spokesman for Mole Valley District Council, which owns the leisure centre, said: "There appears to have been a rare incident where two members of the public queried the provision of lanes of the swimming pool for Headley Court.
"While we wouldn’t condone what happened, staff did their best to accommodate all concerned and acted professionally in dealing with the situation."
You read those sentences and you wonder if these "spokesmen" are any better than the jeering women. If one of these soldiers were my son, the first place I’d head to would be the Mole Valley District Council. And then I’d find the right office in the Ministry of Defence.
The first would be pilloried for not being able to come up with a stronger sentiment than "disappointment."
The latter would have been thwacked for their CYA jabber, as in "staff did their best to accommodate all concerned..." and I would promptly start a petition for a change in the rules regarding "accommodation for narcissist bullies, which these whingeing women obviously are.
But I don’t have a son there, and I wouldn’t know how to start a petition.
Fortunately, Average Gay Joe had a link to an organization that can help
When you go over to Help for Heroes, make sure to read the page about all the fund-raising activities people are doing. It’s a wonderful, heart-warming variety of events, from marathons to climbing mountains, to hosting dinners, to having school fairs. A favorite of some of our UK readers, however, might be this one:
Brewers Shepherd Neame are backing Help for Heroes and helping to support our troops with this great idea. They are producing boxes of 24 Spitfire stubbies with the H4H logo and the slogan ‘Real Bottle’. The packs will be available from Majestic, Booths, Nisa and Makro nationwide in time for Christmas and here’s the best bit... All the brewing profits will benefit our wounded.
The commenters on the story all expressed outrage. At the Mail a woman from Ripon noted that this kind of shunning of the disabled is not unusual:
The women’s selfish attitude disgusts, but doesn’t surprise me. I’ve witnessed similar behaviour at a café when a group of mentally and physically disabled people were innocently enjoying ice cream. Some customers wanted them banned because they were ‘unsightly’. Fortunately, the café owner stood up for them and showed the protestors the door. I hope the same will happen in future in Surrey.
The staff at the pool should have shown the same moral indignation to those women that the café owner did.
Do you think that the difference in attitude between a small-business owner and a government employee is the personal investment an owner has?