Joe Glenton, the British soldier who refused to fight in Afghanistan, was released from military prison on Monday after serving four months for going absent without leave (Awol).
He walked out of the gates of the prison in Colchester to cheers from his supporters. His wife Clare and his mother Sue were with him.
Joe became disillusioned with the war and is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after his first tour.
Joe told Socialist Worker, “It feels absolutely fantastic to be out.
“I stand by what I did. I’d do another four months just to show them up. The other prisoners didn’t have a bad word to say to me.”
Joe and his family are calling for British troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan, as the number of deaths intensify in the country.
Sue said, “We’re celebrating Joe coming home today. But there are 314 other families who can’t celebrate and we’re very aware of that.
“They’re not going to see their loved ones again—it’s really sad. And there are going to be more tragic deaths in Afghanistan.”
Clare told Socialist Worker, “It’s really important what Joe did. He got so many letters of support inside, which shows what people really think about the war.”
Sue added, “Joe’s tapped into something. People in this country don’t think we should be in Afghanistan.
“We’re not benefiting the Afghans and it’s not benefiting our country.
“I’m really proud of Joe. Soldiers have a conscience and are still human beings.”
Joe said, “It’s got to the point where people who previously weren’t that interested have come to the conclusion that there’s something fundamentally wrong and excuses aren’t good enough any more.
“The government is completely detached from the working class lads that go to fight in these wars.
“These lads have given me massive support. Soldiers are from low-income families, working class backgrounds.
“They’re given glossy brochures about the army and it doesn’t work out like that.
“It soon becomes clear that they’re lubricating the ambitions of the people in power with their own blood.
“If the politicians are so keen to get out there and drum up jingoism then they should put their own lives on the line.
“Those guys who have died won’t have a homecoming like I have today.
“That loss is personal for me. I’ve had mates who died out there so I take it to heart.”
Joe was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder when he returned from Afghanistan. But the army refused to recognise the condition for months and bullied him instead of providing treatment.
Joe said, “Soldiers come off tour damaged physically and psychologically.
“There are a lot of cases of domestic violence, alcoholism, drugs—people come back and explode because there’s no support.
“The extent of my debrief was to be told, ‘don’t go home and beat up the wife’.
“Former soldiers are on the scrapheap with 20,000 in the justice system and who knows how many more on the streets once their use to the army is expended.
“In the economic crisis it may seem a tempting option to join the army. But I’d say don’t do it because we’re involved in something very sordid in Afghanistan.”