Ex-soldier backing launch of Poppy Appeal

A reader appeals for others to dig deep for this year's Poppy Appeal. See letter
A reader appeals for others to dig deep for this year's Poppy Appeal. See letter

A FORMER soldier is urging residents to back the Poppy Appeal to help the organisation which turned his life around.

William Jones, 44, helped the Royal British Legion (RBL) launch its annual fund-raising drive by explaining how the charity helped him through several difficult years after leaving the forces.

William served in the Royal Artillery from 1989 to 1992, serving in the UK and Germany as well as doing a peacekeeping tour in Cyprus, but also became involved in an Army culture of heavy drinking which continued after he left.

Gradually he became more dependent on alcohol until he sought help for his addiction, being treated at a centre for veterans where he heard about the RBL.

He contacted the Legion in May 2015 and the charity helped him furnish his new flat by paying for a washing machine and blinds as well as sending him on a family holiday to Haven in the Lake District with his estranged wife and young son.

William, from St Helens, said: “I can’t put into words how grateful I am to the Legion. I honestly never knew they could help me in this way so I’m glad I contacted them.

“The family holiday helped me to build bridges with my wife after my addiction caused us lots of problems. We are still separated but it’s certainly healed a rift which is better for our son.

“I moved into a new flat and couldn’t afford furniture so I was extremely grateful the Legion could help out with a few thing and it made the move less daunting.

“The ongoing support I am receiving from the Legion has taken a huge pressure off me. Their support has helped me to focus on my recovery and get better. They’ve given me the chance to start afresh.

“A lot of veterans will be to proud to ask for help as they think it’s a sign of weakness, but I urge any ex-Service people in my position to pick up the phone. No one should suffer in silence or feel they’ve just got to get on with it.”

The charity’s benefits and money advice team is currently supporting William clear the debts he amassed while drinking.

With his treatment finished, he now works at the centre helping other veterans and is planning to apply for a job as a Legion caseworker.

The RBL hopes to raise a massive £41 from this year’s Poppy Appeal, with the money going into the charity’s work with serving personnel, veterans and their families.

Last year the Legion answered more than 450,000 calls for help and its projects include innovative dementia care, work on theatre recovery, world-leading research on blast injuries and running seaside break centres.

RBL director of fund-raising Charles Byrne said: “We’re encouraging people to dig deep for this year’s Poppy Appeal to help us raise £41m.

“The Legion’s work is entirely dependent on the public’s generous support, so please wear your poppy with pride, knowing that you are helping the armed forces community to live on.”