I became involved with the Soldiering on Through Life Trust (SOTLT) before it even formed.
Initially it consisted of a number of MOD based military and civilian folk and their wider circle of friends and contacts who rather adopted BLESMA in the mid noughties.
We are very honoured and indeed delighted with their innovative and enjoyable fundraising schemes. They became firm friends indeed.
In 2010 their chairman Squadron Leader (now Wing Commander) Tal Lambert told me that their next big idea was big – and it was. So we found ourselves in March 2011 in the newly reopened Savoy with some 300 supporters and guests – and quite a few BLESMA Members awaiting the arrival of our Royal Patron HRH The Duke of Gloucester accompanied by HRH the Duchess of Gloucester.
We sat down to a wonderful dinner in sumptuous surroundings entertained as we went along by a number of evocative and deeply moving video clips telling the stories of men and women who had lost limbs in the service of our country.
After dinner we celebrated the awards themselves and I remember vividly the many poignant moments – such as Bombardier Ben Parkinson giving the award for supportive family to his mum Diane. I remember also one of BLESMA oldest Members George Gates standing ramrod straight extolling the virtues of the support he had benefitted from – and no need for a microphone!
Here was the meaning of life after amputation – it can be a long and even richly fulfilling. His lifetime achievement had started in 1934 as a boy soldier on horseback in a calvary regiment, through war, fierce fighting and limb loss and now on stage in front of hundreds at the age of 90 setting the example to a new generation of wounded who face an equally long and challenging road.
Now with our encouragement SOTLT is a formed charitable entity in its own right. Awarding honour to a wider service charitable family and rightly so. At the 2013 Awards Ceremony at the Park Plaza just over Westminster Bridge I reflected on how far it had come in three years and the good will it had generated.
Our casualties, our supporters and our friends are all on a long and challenging road together – our work has to go on and to have SOTLT there beside us and supporting, encouraging and honouring our work and achievement is something very special indeed.
Written and Submitted by Jerome Church