Tuesday 18th July
I was due to stay at the barracks the evening before my next pathfinders day. I arrived at Chavasse House much later than expected and I was exhausted. Making conversation with the cab driving on the journey from the station, he mentioned how Colchester town is quite quiet nowadays. How times have changed since I was based here. On entering the house, I was excited to see the team although I had to first check in, but I was surprised to find the receptionist looking at me rather blankly; “We don’t have you down to stay this evening.” “…Okay…” so I showed my ID but he couldn’t find me listed. So out came my phone, checking my emails for the confirmation from the team leader. Still nothing… the manager came… “Your not supposed to be staying here tonight” ??! After a call with my H4H contact, we both realised that I had in fact should have been at Tidworth, over a 3 hour train ride away. Whoops!
Wednesday 19th July
After an earlier start than expected, to catch the first train out from Colchester to Tidworth, I met my H4H contact at the station and we both laughed at the situation. Clearly, we’d both assumed the other knew the plans. As we drove into Tidworth, I was struck by the beauty of the venue; it was amazing. I later found out that the buildings and landscape had been planned to make such a tranquil atmosphere and it was so peaceful. I introduced myself to some of the beneficiaries but didn’t give too much of my backstory away as I wanted this to be part of my speech later on. Our task for the day was to dig out the weeds from part of the designed garden and shrubbery, and then plant new, fresh vegetables, like carrots and beetroot. One lady I remember well, was very kind and smiley, and I enjoyed talking with her, although I was saddened to see her grimace as a low flying helicopter passed overhead. She later explained that she had suffered a traumatic experience whilst working as a nurse on operations, placing casualties into helicopters . Obviously, those bad memories still held great pain for her when she picked up that particular sound.
With the morning over, the afternoon made way for further introductions with all the men and women before I performed my speech. A chair was put in front of all the veterans and I looked around the rooms, many of their heads hung low. I started my speech; this was the largest group I have spoken to yet. I try to tell my story with passion in the hope that it will draw peoples attention and enable them to follow me on my journey. When I finish, I couldn’t help but notice tears in some of the veterans eyes; not tears that express sorrow, but tears that showed hope and determination. One particular veteran that the team hoped would open up to me, did just that. Sometimes just talking with someone helps. One comment that I remember very well, came from a female vet – I was always smiling and that I was doing it so much that she couldn’t help but smile too.One tip I have learnt by making these speeches, a smile brings openness, it brings safety, it brings confidence and happiness. I still get told that what’s amazing is that all the pain that I have been through, the suffering I have faced, I still hold not one piece of hatred, regret, blame or evil and have used what could have been a time of destruction for the better, for a greater cause.