Military service is not a regular career, or job. It is more akin to a vocation or a calling, a path in life that will not appeal to everyone, is not suitable for many and indeed, asks more of a person in terms of time, family sacrifice, engagement, physical and mental adversity than most other paths in life.
All military personnel, irrespective of rank or standing, tend to largely follow the same career path: we join in the prime of our youth, are trained to a high standard in an environment that fosters camaraderie and soon after, we are deployed to environments, domestic and foreign, where there is an unprecedented level of trust and responsibility invested in us. Frequently these environments are hostile and challenging.
One does not cease to be a soldier, sailor or airman or airwoman upon retirement. If you’ve served for one year or several decades, you are going to be shaped by your experience in the Military and grow from it. Veterans are citizens who have proudly actioned the values and worn the uniform of Óglaigh na hÉireann and who will forever carry the ethos of the military, no matter where life takes them.
For the most part this is a positive path, as the military is one of the true meritocracies. Personnel who are willing to invest in their own growth and education are rewarded in promotions, deployments and further challenges. In some cases our personnel were exposed to experiences that altered their lives terribly. It would be anathema to all that we learn in the family unit of the military, to stand aside and watch our sisters and brothers suffer on account of this.
ONE was established in 1951 to support the needs of Irish Veterans. In that spirit, ONE currently runs three homes for 49 veterans and are developing two further facilities in Cobh and Cork City. It has created a network of Veterans Support Centres in 15 different locations with 37 branches. Even the acronym of ONE is very fitting: it emphasises the unified message that all military personnel, serving and retired are unified. We are ‘one, as we continue to ‘Strengthen the Nation’.
In 2019, the ONE launched a media campaign where a tricolour sleeping bag was used by a homeless veteran outside the GPO. Rich in symbolism, it challenged us to question how far our pride extends. We winced at the perception of the national colours touching the ground, and the idea of walking past a homeless veteran.
The Irish Military, past and present, has always stood steadfast by the Republic, in the time-honoured tradition of apolitical service, on behalf of all the people of Ireland. On the occasion of its 70th Anniversary, I wish the ONE and all its members the very best for the future and thank them for their continued service to Ireland and its veterans.
MARK MELLETT DSM
CHIEF OF STAFF