Pictured is Ben Peters of the 2nd Medical Regiment. In the south western press yesterday there was a headline 'Soldier who nursed meningitis-struck daughter is jailed for going AWOL'.
At first I thought how despicable of the army to behave so insensitively. I've good reason to think they can from experience of days gone by when compassionate leave was only allowed for next of kin and it usually involved a funeral or, on occasion, a very imminent death. Brothers and sisters, in those days, were not regarded as next of kin unless parents were dead. Military personnel advised the MoD of their next of kin and that is then placed on their record, a practice which still continues today.
Thankfully things have moved on from those days. After reading this article it would appear Ben Peters was given compassionate leave to return to the UK, from his base in Germany, to be with family after his five-week old daughter contracted the deadly meningitis virus.
Despite keeping the military informed, he was arrested on his return, demoted and given 30 days military detention and had two months wages stopped.
But the journalist has dug deeper. Ben took approved leave in April when his partner began to suffer from severe sciatica towards the end of her pregnancy. He then agreed two weeks paternity leave when his daughter was born in May, only to be posted AWOL when he failed to return to Germany after she contracted meningitis.
It would appear the army decided not to follow up that AWOL announcement as they granted him compassionate leave while the baby was in hospital suffering from meningitis. The baby pulled through and discharged after six days.
However Ben decided to ask for more days off to ensure he could attend the baby's follow-up appointments after she came out of hospital. This was refused.
He was again posted AWOL and arrested days later when he returned to base. His partner, the baby's mother, said she had had several conversations with the army in which she stressed their financial situation and complains the action the army has taken has affected the family and her marriage.
At first I thought the army were behaving without any compassion, but when I re-read the article I see Mr Peters has been given a considerable amount of time off, with pay, to attend to his pregnant partner and also help see the family through the baby's illness.
No matter how courageous he is on duty there's a limited time any employer can allow an employee to take for compassionate leave. It used to be three days for all circumstances. I've no idea if that has been extended but it would seem it has been under special circumstances.
While I understand Mr Peters concern for his daughter, once she was discharged from hospital, and with his medical knowledge and/or contacts, he should have been aware that he ought to return to work considering the amount of leave he had been granted already. He chose not to do so.
He knew the rules and it would seem he tried to extend them to suit his own situation. That's not the way it works in the military or any business. Everyone obeys the rules or the whole system falls apart.