A grateful army veteran has sent out a rallying call for people to pledge their support to forces heroes past and present – after the Royal British Legion helped him win his own fight for a better life.
Gerard Reynold was just one of more than 450,000 people to have been helped by the vital charity last year when he sought to tackle financial difficulties and a damp-riddled home.
Now the 55-year-old is urging the public to dig deep so the organisation can hit a lofty £41m fundraising target for its annual Poppy Appeal, which launched today.
Mr Reynolds, from Fox Avenue, in Simonside, South Shields, served in the Royal Signal Corps from 1976 to 1978 and was based in Germany for 18 months as a combat radio operative.
After leaving the forces he struggled to get by through a series of low-paid jobs before eventually finding the formula for success by training to be an accountant.
But he was made redundant from his role at Durham County Council in 2011 and has been unable to work ever since due to a string of health conditions.
The amount of help I have had from the Royal British Legion has been overwhelming.Gerard Reynolds
He turned to the Royal British Legion in desperate need of a lifeline in February 2014.
Each poppy sold is also used to help drive all-important funds for the charity’s work helping brave men and women who have served their country in conflicts at home and abroad.
Mr Reynolds said; “The Poppy Appeal is vital. They helped thousands of people last year. I needed a new bed, had dry rot in my flat and got in touch with the Royal British Legion as I am a member. I can’t thank them enough for all they have done.”
Mr Reynolds was sleeping on a sofa, which had a large hole in it as he had no bed and was suffering with physical and mental health issues.
British Legion workers wrote to South Tyneside Homes, who carried out the necessary repairs and managed to get the council to refurbish Gerard’s flat three months ahead of schedule.
Mr Reynolds was also referred to the charity’s Independent Living Team, who successfully ensured he was receiving the right benefits.
He said: “The amount of help I’ve had from the Legion has just been so overwhelming. In the space of six months, they sorted my home and I no longer have to worry about paying my bills because I’m now getting the right benefits.
“I’ve been a member of the Legion since I joined the Army so I knew the charity was there for people like me, but I had no idea how much the Legion could help me. I’d recommend other veterans who are in my position to pick up the phone to the Legion, as they really can make a huge difference.”
The money raised from the Poppy Appeal goes towards the Legion’s work with current serving personnel, veterans and their families, including innovative dementia care, theatre recovery projects, world-leading research on blast injury studies, and Legion-owned seaside break centres.
The Royal British Legion’s Director of Fundraising Charles Byrne said: “The Legion’s role remains as contemporary and as vital as it has ever been supporting today’s generation of Service personnel, veterans, and their families whether living with an injury or illness, coping with bereavement or finding employment.
“We’re encouraging people to dig deep for this year’s Poppy Appeal to help us raise £41 million. 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.”