Thousands of Defence Forces veterans, many wearing special high-vis vests to identify themselves, are currently working with communities all over the country to bolster the fight against the spread of Covid-19.
A number of veterans organisations have combined under the umbrella group, ’’Irish Veterans Working Together’’ which is emblazoned on their vests, to provide a wide range of supports to the vulnerable.
One of their most prominent members, retired Regimental Sergeant Major Noel O’’Callaghan, said initially they started working to help locked-down veterans and their widows, but this had quickly mushroomed into helping the wider community.
“Veterans are now helping meals and wheels organisations all over the country. Some are now helping at Covid-19 testing centres in Dublin and Newbridge, Co Kildare. In Galway they are helping to deliver Covid-19 tests to laboratories,” Mr O’’Callaghan said.
He pointed out that the voluntary effort is huge as there is an ethos amongst those who have served to be there in times of emergency.
“We have 12,000 Defence Forces veterans on pension, and probably four times that did not make the pension and many of them are helping as well,” Mr O’’Callaghan said.
Irish Veterans Working Together, was established earlier this month during a meeting at McKee Barracks, Dublin approved by the Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett.
"The aim of our meeting was to explore how we as DF Veterans, with a huge wealth of experience and expertise, could assist in our countries response to this pandemic," Mr O’’Callaghan said.
A former soldier, who served 23 years in Collins Barrack, Cork is doing her bit in the North Cork village of Killavullen, near Mallow.
Tracy Connolly, 46, who did tours in Lebanon and Kosovo, said she’’s helping to take prescriptions to vulnerable people in her area and helping out with meals on wheels.
She believes that she will become far busier if the virus begins to have an even larger impact in the coming days.
Meanwhile, more and more veterans are seeking to re-enlist in the Permanent Defence Forces since the government asked people to help bolster their strength during this time of crisis. As of today, the Defence Forces press office said 530 former enlisted personnel and 26 former officers had applied to rejoin.