For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
So it was when Kipling wrote those words. So it had been for centuries before. And so it is today. For all our talk of respecting the military, of the Military Covenant and of remembrance, too many still see the soldier as a brute, as something other than a reliable trustworthy human. And too many of those fearful folk are working in our public services:
Aircraft engineer Mark Prendeville was relocated twice by hospital staff who said his uniform “might upset people” because “we have all kinds of different cultures coming in”.
Sgt Prendeville was taken to the Accident and Emergency unit of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent after chemicals from a fire extinguisher got in to his eyes during a training exercise at RAF Manston.
According to his father, the 38-year-old, who has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia, was “dumbfounded” to be told on two different occasions to stand out of the view of other patients. He was wearing a camouflage combat uniform.
I don't know what possessed the hospital in question but there is no doubt at all that its behaviour - not just the behaviour of a particular member of staff - was utterly wrong. This is a public service and that service is covered by the Military Covenant which says:
There's not much room for discussion here and it's not enough for an anonymous spokesperson to be wheeled out giving a massaged set of weasel words:
"This employee was acting in good faith because previously, there had been an altercation between a member of the public and a different member of the armed forces in uniform."
The hospital trust is "absolutely clear that members of Her Majesty's armed forces, whether in uniform or not, should not be treated any differently to any other person,” the spokesman added.
This is the sort of formulaic, boilerplate response used by the NHS and other public bodies when their anti-servicemen tendencies are revealed. It's not just that the hospital was disrespectful but that it ignored its commitment as a public body, a commitment set out in those words above. A commitment meant to stop those words of Kipling being true.