Graphic novel launched telling of soldier's trauma after Afghanistan war

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By Amanda MacMillan

A GRAPHIC novel which tells the story of a soldier’s return from the war in Afghanistan has been described by war veterans as “absolutely brilliant”.

Dougie’s War went on sale yesterday and tells the story of Dougie Campbell, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan returning home to the south side of Glasgow.

The novel depicts his inner struggle to adjust to civilian life as he battles with his memories of the war.

Scottish veterans, David Cruickshanks and Shaun Davidson, both from Fife Veterans Association, launched the explosive new graphic novel at Edinburgh Castle.

It is the first release by independent Glasgow publishers Freight with words by acclaimed novelist and biographer Rodge Glass and pictures by artist Dave Turbitt.

Mr Cruickshanks, who served in the Royal Navy in the Falklands War, said: “I think it’s absolutely brilliant. I’ve read it once only but I think I need to go back and read it again just to pick up on the finer points.

“I think it’s a brilliant portrayal and a very accurate portrayal of some service people coming out the services and the things they actually face.”

Mr Cruickshanks was approached by Rodge Glass to help him put the novel together.

He added: “We chatted about what armed service veterans feel like when they come out of the services and about trying to integrate them back into the community when they’ve left.

“I was in the Navy so I came out of there into civilian life. I had an injury to my knee so I got a medical discharge and Rodge and I spoke about a character that would maybe do the same sort of thing.

“If the novel appeals to all different types of people, particularly younger people, then it helps to get the message across that people do suffer trauma when they come back from the services.”

Shaun Davidson served in Northern Ireland with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and he also thinks that the graphic novel is a great way to reach a wider audience.

He said: “It’s not a long story and because it’s in a comic form it’s easier for people to understand. If you put a lot of it into words then a lot of people are not going to bother reading it but because it’s graphic it might appeal to the younger generation as well.

“I think it’s really good. When I started reading it a lot of my own experiences came through. With leaving the army you feel alone so you turn to things like drink. But after a while you do get through it, it just takes time.”

Dougie’s War is inspired by the classic 80s World War One comic strip Charley’s War.

This was the first graphic novel to explore the reality of war and what was then called shell shock.

Dougie’s War highlights the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) time-bomb facing the UK.

Rodge Glass said: “We ask our service men and women to do things and witness things the rest of us cannot imagine. They are trained to operate in the harshest and most stressful environments. But medical research shows that the effects of those experiences can be deeply damaging.

“Treatment of (PTSD) is improving all the time, whether via the NHS or veterans’ charities, but it is vital that soldiers and those closest to them recognise the symptoms and seek help.” 

Gordon MacRae, head of communications and policy at Shelter Scotland, who are targeting veterans in need of help, said: “The graphic novel depicts an all too familiar scene and is a great way of reaching former members of the armed services who are too often forgotten about when they return from the theatre of war.

“Shelter Scotland is proud to endorse Dougie’s War and hope that it will encourage men and women who have shared similar experiences to seek information and support from organisations like ourselves before things get too bad.”

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