Colin Debenham: What does supporting/attending Soldiering On mean to me?
I retired from the Royal Air Force in 1996 after a final, 3 year tour in Main Building. During this period I was involved in a number of fund-raising activities, working alongside Service and civilian colleagues, many of whom have become life-long friends. Prior to last Christmas I was in Main Building visiting one of these friends, Adrian Bevan, who mentioned Soldiering On. I indicated that I would be willing to act as a volunteer if I could help in any way. Wasting no time, Adrian rang Tal, who happened to be in Main Building and, within minutes, we were introduced. Over the Christmas / New Year period Tal invited me to act as the coordinator for the live and silent auctions, to be held at the Soldiering On Awards 2013.
During the next three months I came to know many of the incredible team of trustees, volunteers and sponsors, who contribute in so many ways to ongoing events and fund-raising activities. The auctions proved to be a challenging, but hugely rewarding and enjoyable experience and so, when asked if I was available to assist on other projects, the answer was, of course, a resounding “yes”.
Since April I have experienced a roller-coaster ride of involvement in various Soldiering On tasks and events. Invited to become a Trustee in May, I was privileged to attend the dinner hosted by BT Defence at the BT Tower on 13 May – it was an unforgettable occasion, made even more special for me when I came across my godson, a serving RAF officer who I had not seen for over twenty years, sat at the adjoining table.
Assisting with the website upgrade, proof-reading sponsorship proposals, contributing to arrangements for Fashion For The Brave and Rail Tours have kept this new Trustee busy – especially as I also have a day job. However, my highest priority has been master-minding the Grand Raffle; it has already entailed months of preparatory work but the fun will start shortly when the tickets go on sale. This is the major fund-raising event of the year, so no pressure!
Seriously though, I would not have it any other way. Becoming part of Soldiering On is a life-changing experience. Since being invited to join the Team, I have felt happier and more fulfilled than at any time since I retired from the Service. As my family have remarked only recently, “That’s because it feels like coming home”.
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