Richard’s real battle began after Iraq
Richard, an infantry soldier, was a Private in the Black Watch from 2000-2005. He joined the Army when he was 17, because, in his own words, he didn’t stick it out at school and wanted his chance to achieve something and make his family proud.
He was deployed to Iraq in 2003.
“I didn’t have any thoughts about going to Iraq. It was what we had trained for and it all happened so quickly. We found out just a couple of weeks before we were sent out there,” remembers Richard. As a gunner in a Warrior tank, Richard witnessed some distressing events.
The commander of his tank lost a leg after being shot. Then, after another comrade was killed by enemy fire, Richard was part of the team sent to recover the body. It would haunt him long after he left Iraq. He describes the after-effects in a chillingly simple way:
“It was a horrible experience. I could only deal with what I had seen for so long. I couldn’t escape it.”
He did his best to carry on as normal, but was plagued with disturbed sleep and nightmares. Eventually treated for depression and anxiety, Richard was medically discharged as his battalion was preparing for a second tour of Iraq. Reflecting on this period of his life he says: “I didn’t know what to do or where to go for help. I was angry with how the Army had treated me; I had no GP and moved back with my mum. I didn’t know anything about housing or support either.”
Richard began drinking heavily to block out the past.
This continued for five years until his then girlfriend became pregnant. He knew he had to stop
drinking to be a good father to his child. His family found a therapist who had worked with veterans.
Slowly, he began to open up.
In 2012 he registered with the Regular Forces Employment Agency to find work and was offered a temporary role as a Poppyscotland driver for the annual Scottish Poppy Appeal, collecting and delivering poppies and tins to volunteers, shops and businesses.
By January 2013 he had a permanent job as driver for Poppyscotland and Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory.
Since then, Richard has continued to make progress. With Poppyscotland’s help, he has gained his forklift and Class 2 LGV licences. In January 2016 he left Poppyscotland to take up a driving job with a company closer to his home: “My whole world changed when I started working at Poppyscotland. I got married, bought a house and had another child. I am very grateful and can’t thank them enough for the help I have received.”
Congratulations and good luck Richard!
Please help us to be there for more ex-Servicemen and ex-Servicewomen like Richard by giving a gift of £19.18 today.
“Now I’ve met the team at Poppyscotland, I realise I don’t have to cope alone.”
My name is Ronnie Martin and my journey began in the jungles of Belize, back in 1991 with the Royal Engineers. We were there on a peace-keeping mission to stop the flow of drugs coming into the country. Whilst on patrol I was shot in the leg by a heavily armed drug dealer. I fell to the ground and he shot me again — this time at point blank range. The bullet hit my back and lodged in my heart. It was supposed to kill me. They walked away and left me for dead.
Thanks to my quick-thinking pals, that bullet didn’t kill me, but it did almost destroy my life. I was left with permanent injuries, which meant I was no longer fit for frontline duties. I had to leave the Forces. It was absolutely devastating; I didn’t know what to do. I was living with the pain of the injury – and the trauma of being shot.
When I returned to Scotland I thought there would be no help for an old soldier like me. But I was wrong. Thanks to kind supporters like you, Poppyscotland provided a grant to make my home more accessible.
Perhaps even more importantly, they gave me much needed emotional support. I’d been struggling with flashbacks of that night for years. I can’t tell you what it meant to finally have someone to talk to.