A WAR veteran who fought on the frontline in both Iraq wars, the Balkans and served three tours of Afghanistan is now forced to sleep in his car at a Glasgow retail park.
Desmond McLaughlin, 61, was a Royal Marines Commando for almost two decades and also served in the reserves for 19 years.
I lost a lot of pals in Afghanistan. Two of my best mates were killed by improvised explosive devices. Sometimes I get a bit emotional. It still hurtsDesmond McLaughlin
He now sleeps in his car at a retail park in Glasgow’s south side because he’s been unable to get a house after splitting from his wife.
Desmond is a chef at a retirement home in Glasgow and collects an armed forces pension but can’t afford the deposit or rent requirements to live in a one bedroom flat.
He said: “Everyone thinks we get big pensions but I only get about £300 a month after tax and I only make about £800 a month from my job.
“It’s at least £500 for a bedsit in some areas but I’d need £1,000 if you include the deposit. I can just about afford it but I wouldn’t be able to eat or run a car.”
Desmond would like to get a council house but he’s been told he doesn’t have enough points, despite visiting the council’s homelessness casework team to ask for emergency accommodation.
The former marine is more than six feet tall and has to squeeze into a small car every night. In the last two years he’s had a heart attack and a perforated ulcer.
He said: “I just want to get somewhere settled so that I can leave work and know I’ve got somewhere to go.
“I got caught out one day and got soaked so I had to drive the car around with the heating on to dry off. When my car was in for an MOT I had to walk the streets.
“I sometimes go to a friend’s house to get a shower. I can go to Wetherspoons for a meal and a drink for a fiver.
“If I’m on early shift I can eat at work, maybe have a bit of toast and a coffee.”
Desmond will never forget his experiences fighting for his country, or his friends who fought alongside him.
He said: “I lost a lot of pals in Afghanistan. Two of my best mates were killed by improvised explosive devices. Sometimes I get a bit emotional. It still hurts.
“We were the first ones in to Afghanistan. We had to drive from Kabul Airport to Bagram airbase in three vehicles.
“We had to clear a minefield when we got there. One guy was carrying two mines and lost both of his arms. I was 500 yards away.
“Then two Americans got off a helicopter and one of them stood on a mine and lost a leg. The other one died of shock.”