The charity says injury has forced almost 40,000 men and women to leave the military over the past 20 years. More than a quarter of these have been since the end of the war in Afghanistan, despite the British Armed Forces not being engaged in active conflict during this period.
It wants the Government to review the existing medical discharge process to ensure those forced to leave the military as a result of injuries or illness are given the best possible opportunity to land on their feet and transition well into civilian life. It has created the art installation to highlight the issue, taking it to towns and cities across the UK. Shoppers in the Darwin Centre were able to see part of that installation, 5,000 model soldiers, throughout the day on Saturday. Mel Waters, CEO of Help for Heroes said: “Injuries have ended 40,000 military careers in 20 years and every day this number grows. Many of them tell us that their transition impacted significantly on their health, wellbeing and family. The medical discharge process is seriously failing those who are let down by major inconsistencies in support, so we’re calling on the Government to commission an independent review of the process to close those gaps. With the public’s support, we’re on a mission to ensure every wounded hero has the best opportunity to stand strong in civilian life”
The visit was supported by Shropshire veteran Kelly Leonard. The 42-year-old, who lives near RAF Shawbury in Shropshire, is a former RAF Physical Training Instructor, and now a community paediatric physio for the NHS. She had a motorbike accident that almost led to her having her foot amputated.
The injury has left Kelly with no mobility due to no ankle joint. She has arthritis in her ankle and needs to use crutches on bad days.
With the support of Help for Heroes Kelly is now due to represent Team UK at the 2020 Invictus Games in The Hague as Vice-Captain, competing in wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, swimming and rowing.
She said: “My accident stopped me in my tracks. I learnt to walk again and live the best I could within my limitations. I tried several different individual and team sports but failed to fill the void as I was never able to participate on a level playing field. I lost focus on sport as a result my physical and mental recovery suffered. It left me with a loss of confidence and self- belief”.
“By taking part in all the training camps run by Help for Heroes I have found myself surrounded by people who do not judge but understand, talk and support.
“They have empowered me to achieve the best I can be. It’s been a turning point.”