Personal Post

For those of you who read the program you would have seen that for this weeks first team game against Bedford my around the ground page was changed and I penned my personal experiences of how the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes had assisted me.  With the time of year and the day that we remember those that have given the ultimate sacrifice being today.  Please just take a moment to read where the money that is collected goes and how much it helps.

For those of you that know me well and I class as friends will know how hard it was to write I spent ages writing, deleting, writing, deleting.  Since the program was published I have been asked by numerous people to copy it to the website. If anyone wants to make a donation after reading my words then please just place it either in the collection tins at the bar or come and see me.  Please remember though that its not just this time of year that people need support so if you have that 25p left after buying a cup of tea on your training night or that 15p after buying a pint on match days just think about putting it in the collection tins on the bar as every penny does help.



This week my little part of the program is going to be a little different than normal as I’d like to take the opportunity the club has given me to talk a little about myself and one of the clubs chosen charity partners and my personal experience with them.
In 2010 I was involved in an incident in Afghanistan whilst serving with the Royal Engineers in a search team. I got caught in an IED blast which changed my life in a second, I went from completing Marathons, playing football for the Army, my Corps and Regiment to not being able to stand up.  I had shattered my tibia and fibula in both legs, fractured and dislocated both of my knee caps amongst other injuries.  Within 24 hours of the incident I was back in the UK with only the clothes on my back. I was lucky I was given the option of either having my legs amputated or undergo a lot of operations to repair the damage to my lower limbs,  I underwent 36 operations in total leaving me with artificial kneecaps, my tibia and fibulas held together with rods and screws and a few other smaller operations to remove shrapnel and other items from my body that were there as a cause of the blast.  I then had to re learn to walk after spending 2 years in a wheelchair,  imagine being 35years of age and being congratulated on taking a single step.  During this time I hit rock bottom as an individual and tried to self medicate with alcohol to get rid of the demons in my head and chase away the nightmares at my worst I as drinking about 2 litres of vodka a day.  My marriage then broke up not solely because of my drinking but it was one of the reasons, at my lowest points I did contemplate ending my life but I was lucky that I had 3 boys who I ended up getting custody of who helped drag me through it.  You might think why am I telling you all this and what does it have to do with today.  Well without the help of both Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion I would not be here today and would not have the life I have got with my new partner and children. 
When you are flown back to the UK you arrive with what you are wearing and nothing else your kit gets left in Afghanistan.  From this point forward is where Help for Heroes first engage with you  They arrive with a bag containing everything you will need from clean pants and socks, toiletries, jogging bottoms everything you could possibly need until you can get sorted with family members,  each of these bags cost £75.  You then get signed up to the Band of Brothers this opens so many avenues for you and you then have a support network. Their support then continues in various ways both during your rehabilitation and journey back into civilian life after injury. How did they directly help me?  Well firstly the grab bag was a godsend there is no feeling like putting on clean clothes when all you have is covered in grit, sand and the smell of Afghanistan.  Towards the end of my rehabilitation and recovery they got me the help I needed to kick my addiction firstly and then to face the demons in my head and how to control them yes they still come back occasionally but without the help of the 2 charities I would still be waking every night screaming and in sweats.  Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion in partnership have built 4 what the call recovery centres throughout the country, These centres are ran by the charities with no government funding and they allow respite for both the wounded soldier and the families who are often forgotten.  I visited one of these centres and the best way to describe it was turned back from a soldier to a civilian.  When your serving it is surprising the things that you don’t have to worry about that as a “civvy” you do.  Council Tax what the hell is that its all taken from source when your serving ,so you never have to worry about those things these courses give you that insight.  They also give you direction and show you what transferable skills you have to take with you into the real world.  All of this is done by the charities none of it is funded by anywhere else.  The British legion have also provided my family and me something they call a poppy break they basically give you a long weekend away from everything.  They put on events for children of wounded or deceased soldiers as they are often forgotten amongst everything else that is going on.  I have joined something called the Band of Brothers that was set up by help for Heroes its a support network of people in the same situation as yourself that if nothing else you can speak to. They put on events I am sure a lot of you have seen the Invictus Games this is led by Help for Heroes, sport recovery is a massive thing as when you are serving you are fit and take part in a lot of sport.  I used to cycle a lot and now because I haven’t got the flection in my legs can’t, so the charities bought me a handbike so I could still cycle also it meant I could still go the park and have a bike ride with the kids.  
There is also a Band of Sisters that is for partners of wounded soldiers it provides them with respite and opportunities to get together with other partners in the same position as dealing with a wounded soldier can be very difficult especially the mental issues that a lot of ex service personnel have.
Writing this was hard for me but I believe that if one person reads this and thinks they will put an extra couple of quid in the collection tin then it is worth it.  I am one of the lucky ones I now have a beautiful partner (God knows what she sees in me), great kids a roof over my head and a job I enjoy,  Some are not as lucky as me and still need that support just because the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and all that had gone on before are no longer happening the scars for many are still there and if we as a club and a community can just dig that little bit deeper maybe we can all help someone who was in my position.  Everyday for me now is a blessing I have been at rock bottom and with the help of these charities supported by you I can enjoy every day now.  Every penny that is donated goes to supporting wounded soldiers and their families.  Both Charities work together and their partnership is plain to see, especially at the recovery centres.
Today the day before remembrance day 2 of my kids want to give back to these charities that have helped us so much, they are in the Hero Bear and Baby Bear costumes collecting both for the poppy appeal and Help for Heroes. Please dig deep for them, as a country we need to encourage the younger generation to carry on collecting and supporting the Poppy Appeal as it is something we all need to keep in our hearts and minds.