The Sunday People launches its Christmas Heroes Appeal today to give our military veterans like Dave Hunter a reason to smile.
The former lance corporal in the Royal Corps of Signals, who has post-traumatic stress disorder, was penniless the last time Christmas came around.
He faced the stress and shame of not being able to afford presents and goodies for his daughter – until The Veterans Charity stepped in.
He received a food delivery with everything he needed to treat 12-year-old Millie to Christmas dinner as well as enough fresh, frozen and tinned food to see them into the new year.
The special Christmas hamper also included Christmas crackers, a 5ft tree with decorations and a gift card so Dave, 43, could buy presents for his daughter.
He said: “Ex soldiers like to think they are really tough but I was so relieved and so thankful, I cried like a baby when the hamper was delivered.”
But there are thousands more former servicemen and women like Dave facing hardship in the UK today – and The Veterans Charity only has the funds to help a limited number.
So this year we are asking our generous readers to help the charity reach those who are struggling to survive on benefits and minimum pensions despite putting their lives on the line for our country.
Dave, who suffers night terrors and relies on twice daily doses of morphine to cope with debilitating pain from injuries during his 12-year Army career. said: “Myself and my ex-wife take it in turns to have Millie for Christmas and last year was my turn.
“The most I was going to be able to do for her was heat up a frozen pizza. It wasn’t fair on her and I was going to have to let her go to her mum’s.
“I was so upset and stressed about it, I was having panic attacks. There was nothing in the fridge, nothing in the cupboards and nothing in the bank.” But then Dave received a call from Danny Greeno of The Veterans Charity to ask how he was coping.
He said: “Danny had helped me before. He’d sent me food parcels and bought things to help me like a dishwasher because even small tasks like washing the dishes cause me pain. He asked me if I was sorted for Christmas and I admitted to him how bad things were. I was in a complete mess.
“Being able to have Millie for Christmas and seeing the look on her face when she saw all the decorations and the food meant the absolute world to me.”
Dave, who lives near Glasgow, served with the Royal Corps of Signals between 1991 and 2003, including a stint in Bosnia in 1996, just after the end of the war there.
He is still unable to talk about his experiences in Bosnia but says he tore both his Achilles tendons while running away from a dangerous situation. After being operated on at his regiment’s base in Germany, he developed blood poisoning and nearly lost a leg.
Then in 2001 he dislocated his left knee during a combat fitness test ahead of the Royal Signals going to Afghanistan.
He never recovered from the injury, which left him with degenerative nerve damage – and Dave quit the Army two years later.
Five years ago he was diagnosed with PTSD which has blighted his life since a 1991 training accident at Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire. Each Christmas hamper from The Veterans Charity costs around £200 and is delivered the week before Christmas.
The Veterans Charity receives referrals from charities such as the Royal British Legion but can also receive self-referrals.
If you know a veteran who needs help this Christmas, encourage them to fill in an online support request form at www.veteranscharity.org.uk.
- The Veterans Charity receives referrals from charities such as the Royal British Legion but can also receive self-referrals. If you know a veteran who needs help this Christmas, encourage them to fill in an online support request form at www.veteranscharity.org.uk
What each hamper buys
A grocery shopping delivery which will include:
■ Meat dish (chicken/turkey/ beef/lamb or pork) or a vegetarian alternative if asked
■ Mix of seasonal vegetables
■ Sauces, condiments and gravy
■ cooking oil
■ christmas crackers
■ Sweets/chocolates selection
■ Assorted snacks
■ Bread, butter, cheese and milk ■ Selection of soft drinks, tea and coffee
■ Pasta, rice, tinned sauces and vegetables
■ Soups, baked beans
■ Minced beef, frozen chicken fillets, sausages, fish cakes
■ Fresh fruit and salad
■ Hygiene products including washing liquid, washing up liquid and toilet rolls
A wrapped hamper containing:
■ 5ft pre-lit christmas tree
■ Selection of assorted festive- themed decorations, including children’s crafts
■ A gift card to buy some presents
■ Wrapping paper and gift tags
How to give
BY TEXT Text PHCA18 £10 to 70070 to donate £10 to our People Heroes Christmas Appeal.
You can choose any sum between£1 and £10 – just change the number after the pound sign.
All texts are charged at the donation amount plus one message at your standard network rate.
The Veterans Charity will receive 100 per cent of your donation.
After donating you will receive a text asking if you are a UK taxpayer and wish to add Gift Aid.
This means the Government can add an extra 25 per cent to the donation.
You must obtain permission from the bill payer before sending a text message.
BY POST Send cheques payable to “The Veterans Charity” to Sunday People, Christmas Heroes Appeal, Reach plc, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5AP.
BY YOUR BANK To donate via bank transfer, phone the charity on 01271 859211 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request bank details
Army still lacks compassion and common sense 17 years after my lad’s death
A grieving dad believes the Army has learnt nothing from the death of his soldier son at a notorious base.
Pte Geoff Gray, 17, was found dead with two gunshot wounds to his head at Deepcut Barracks, Surrey, in 2001. His dad, also Geoff, said the Army still lacks compassion and common sense when dealing with bereaved families.
Caretaker Geoff, 55, of Hackney, East London, has successfully fought for a second inquest, fearing someone else pulled the trigger killing Geoff. He sympathises with Linda Ketchner, whose six-year wait for an inquest into her Afghan vet son’s death was highlighted in the Sunday People.
Geoff said: “There is no desire by the Army to get to the truth when there is a suicide just in case it opens a can of worms. There’s an element of cover-up but also incompetence.
“Families and loved ones shouldn’t be waiting years to find out what happened to their son, daughter, wife or husband.” Linda’s son Lance Corporal James Ross, 30, in 2 Rifles, was found hanged on a military base in 2012. She said: “I want answers. The Army has spent six years trying to dodge them.”
Geoff said, like Linda’s experience, no one had visited or offered counselling after his lad’s death and he was amazed the Army was still “trying to hide the truth” from families.
This year 64 serving and former members of the armed forces are believed to have committed suicide. An MOD spokesman said: “We do our utmost to support Armed Forces families that have lost loved ones, providing trained visiting officers. The Army also has a dedicated bereavement and aftercare support team.”