A Veteran’s Journey of Remembrance

Remembrance day means something different to everyone. We would like to share with you our journey supporting a veteran through our medical welfare service provision. This story will highlight how our work at DMWS has made a lasting impact on one man’s life and his family who served. This is what Remembrance Day means to those who tell their personal story.  

Christine Pilbeam, Marketing Manager, DMWS and Army Wife

On Remembrance Day tomorrow, we think of those killed and injured in conflict since 1945. Being married to a serving member of the Armed Forces this day has particular significance to me. I believe the best way to show appreciation to those who have sacrificed so much is by living the way of life they fought to protect. A life where we care for each other, respect each other and help those in need.

That is why I am very proud to be working for the Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS). DMWS is a charity who helps those who currently serve or have served their country plus their family when they receive medical treatment with practical and emotional support.

I am aware that there are a lot of people out there who have not heard of DMWS and what the charity actually does. That’s why I would like to take you on a journey over the next few days to show you how our Welfare Officer Mark Woodland has changed the life of a 86-year-old Army veteran, Joseph Gillespie, by giving him back the independence he lost when he had a stroke.

To be continued…

Christine Pilbeam, Marketing Manager, DMWS

Mark Woodland, Welfare Officer, DMWS and former Serving Member of the Armed Forces

  “I feel particularly privileged to be able to help those who have sacrificed so much through my job on a daily basis. Having served in the Army for 22 years, including active service, I know only too well the personal sacrifice that both service personnel and their families make.  The bonds that are made when serving are like no others and the nature of military service means that those bonds are at a far greater risk of being broken through loss of life.  We all value our freedom, rights and way of life and like so many others, I am acutely aware of the price so many have paid to preserve what we all take for granted for so much of our lives.  Once a year (at the very least), we hopefully allow ourselves time to reflect on those that sacrificed so much for our way of life.”

 On Armistice Day, I would like share my experience of supporting Joseph Gillespie a 86-year-old Army veteran , who was in the Royal Artillery from 1948 to 1950. He suffered from a stroke in early 2016 and moved from Wales back to the North-West to be closer to his daughter Lisa and granddaughter Holly. Thanks to a pioneering service introduced d by DMWS in collaboration with Wigan Council and local health service providers, I was able to support Joseph at Alexandra Court Rehabilitation Centre to offer him and his family a range of emotional and practical help.

The stroke, combined with the move away from his home in Wales had an emotional impact on Joseph. Having served in the Army for many years myself, Joseph soon felt comfortable and safe to discuss any issues with me which I could then address. After his recovery Joseph moved in with his daughter Lisa, where he had a single room. On the practical side it was crucial that he would find adequate housing for his needs quickly to gain his independence back. But there was concern that independent living could lead to social isolation and a feeling of “being a prisoner in your own home.”

With DMWS connections I managed to point Joseph to other Veteran Clubs and community organisations.  Joseph now lives an independent life in his bungalow and enjoys meeting other like-minded people at the Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Club in Salford on Saturdays. It is fantastic to be part of a good story.

 Joseph’s journey does not end here, join us over the next few days for the next instalment.

Holly Moreland, member of the RAF Air Cadet and Granddaughter of Joseph Gillespie

“This year’s remembrance means even more to me, it is not just the day to remember the amazing people who have given their lives for our country but it is also a time when I see my granddad in a different light. A remarkable brave man who not only is my granddad but also an ex-soldier who fought alongside those we remember. He is an inspirational character who taught me what it means to be grateful.

I am thankful to all the fantastic charities like the Defence Medical Welfare Service that show their respect by supporting Armed Forces personnel, Remembrance weekend has allowed me time to celebrate how lucky our family has been.”

My granddad Joseph had lived in Wales for many years but after his stroke we all felt that it would be better if he moved to the North-West so that he could be closer to his family. Medically he recovered really well but to get his full independence back he was waiting for suitable accommodation whilst living with his daughter.

Welfare Officer Mark Woodland from the DMWS supported Joseph with a referral to the Housing Association and helped him through the application process, which was a great relief to the family.

Joseph said:  “Technically I was homeless when I moved back to the borough. To have my application for a bungalow considered as soon as possible, because of my background in the forces, was a weight off our shoulders.”

Having left long term friends behind in Wales, Mark told my granddad about local befriending schemes and a range of recovery support. I am pleased to see him socialise, and once a month we also drive him down to his former home in Wales so he can see his old friends.

My granddad really flourished in his new home and surrounding environment and even goes on trips with other veterans. Find out about Joseph’s current stay at the Royal British Legion’s break centre, Byng House tomorrow.

Tony Dunn, Administrator, Royal British Legion Break Centre – Byng House and former Serving Member of the Armed Forces

 “As a former soldier in the Coldstream Guards I am very privileged to be able to work for the Royal British Legion. I have a close affinity with our guests at Byng House as I understand their needs and their background experiences.

The staff at Byng House take great pride in being able to deliver a high standard of hospitality to our beneficiaries who stay at our Poppy Break Centre in Southport. At this time of year we remember the fallen of two World Wars and subsequent conflicts, and the management, staff and our guests will represent Byng House at the Remembrance Parade on Sunday 13th November  at Southport Monument alongside civic dignitaries, the Armed Forces and other agencies.  As a guest at Byng House, Mr Gillespie will be on parade with us paying our respects to fallen colleagues.”

DMWS has supported 86-year-old veteran Joseph Gillespie since April 2016, initially in a medical welfare capacity followed by support into finding him adequate housing, pointing him to local befriending schemes and organising  a rest-bite break at Byng House. Byng House is one of four Poppy Break Centres in the UK offering holidays for serving and former members of the British Armed Forces and funded by the Royal British Legion.

Welfare Officer Mark Woodland from the DMWS said: “For people who have been in hospital for a long period of time it is really important to have a rest-bite holiday to help them on their path to recovery. It also helps them with the transition of spending time in just one hospital room to moving back into their own home.  I have referred many of our service users to Byng House, it gives people a place where they can go and relax in a safe and secure environment and remininice over past experiences both good and bad. “

Like on previous Remembrance Sundays, Byng House is holding a Remembrance Service and a Parade through Southport. This will give Joseph the opportunity to reflect on the past and to share memories with people who had similar experiences. 

If any Veteran or Service personnel  would like to apply for a Poppy Break at Byng House or would like to request assistance from  The Royal British Legion they should call the Legion’s Contact Centre on: 0800 802 8080.

Joseph Gillespie, Army veteran, former serving member of the Royal Artillery

Yesterday was an important day for so many of us. For Joseph it had additional significance as it brought together 3 generations of his family to share Remembrance Sunday and reminisce with other veterans in Southport.

Joseph said: “It’s important that people remember what happened, that we remember those people who went through such a horrible war. The younger generation won’t forget what these soldiers went through for them and our country as we celebrate this special day.”

Joseph Gillespie’s journey of remembrance highlights the important work that DMWS does on a daily basis, thanks to the funding we receive. DMWS brings the Covenant between the Armed Forces and the Nation to life through its support of the wounded, injured and sick whilst under hospital care.  We know that our intervention can lead to a swifter discharge from hospital and a quicker recovery for the patient and we are very happy to hear that Joseph is doing so well.

Joseph said: “Thanks to Welfare Officer Mark Woodland and the overall DMWS service I am able to go on trips with other veterans plus much more. Even six months after being discharged from hospital, I can still access the DMWS and the officer who helped me still checks in on a regular basis”.

Cllr Paul Kenny, lead member for the armed forces at Wigan Council, said: “We are privileged to have been the chosen borough for the pilot. This service provides an invaluable link between military personnel and the health services they both need and deserve, and this is proven with Joseph’s story.”

Joseph’s granddaughter Holly wrote after the event: “So proud of all involved. Thank you for changing his life this year. Holly”

If you would like to find out more about our service and how we can help please visit: www.dmws.org.uk

Published: 10th November, 2016
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