“Despite the fact that Sweden has conducted military operations overseas for more that 60 years we have not had any coordinated policy for veteran soldiers,” the defence minister Sten Tolgfors argued in an opinion article in the Dagens Nyheter daily on Friday.
Tolgfors stated that the Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) will now be given an indefinite responsibility to care for former soldiers and announced the establishment of a new veteran soldier unit to attend to their needs.
The new unit will be established at the Armed Forces’ headquarters with personal contacts allocated to individual veterans and their relatives. The government has also decided that injured soldiers will now be offered support for as long as they need it, removing the current five year limit.
Furthermore soldiers will be offered help in contact with social services and municipalities to enable reintegration into society after completion of service.
“But a policy for veteran soldiers is also about showing recognition for the efforts which have been made for Sweden and for peace,” Tolgfors wrote, announcing that a memorial will be commissioned and a remembrance day established for all of Sweden’s veterans.
Sweden has been involved in military operations overseas since 1948. A total of 81 Swedes have lost their lives, with 16 dying in combat. Among the operations with Swedish troop deployment are named Korea, Kosovo, the Gulf of Aden (Somalia) and Afghanistan, where the country keeps a force of 500 troops.
The minister used the Afghanistan operation to exemplify the type of courage and commitment of the Swedish troops that warrant the establishment of May 29th as a memorial day.
“Few people earn our respect as those who participate in the Armed Forces’ international operations for peace,” Sten Tolgfors wrote.
The minister conceded that the government support for veteran soldiers has not been adequate and promised that the new proposition will address this issue.
The minster underlined that an efficient policy for veteran soldiers is built on the provision of support for soldiers currently in the field and argued that “soldiers and their relatives should never feel that the support from home falters when the going gets tough.”
The minister concluded that while Sweden has always taken its international responsibility as a force for peace, the country will now also take its responsibility for the individuals who conduct those operations.