A special day at an inspirational book launch

7

Alison and Sam at the exhibition

This day last week was very special for a number of reasons and brought about a whole mix of emotions, so I thought you might like to share it with me.

I, like most of you I'm sure, have heard of the amazing charity Help for Heroes set up by a married couple Bryn and Emma Parry to raise money for servicemen and women wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq. Well last Thursday, Colin, me, Sam and his girlfriend Becks were invited to a book launch at the Guards Barracks on Birdcage Walk in London.

An exhibition of photographs taken by Colin's cousin Gill Shaw was set up there to tie in with the book she'd compiled called 'The Hero Inside'. Over a 16-week period she'd basically travelled 21,500 miles around the UK to take photographs of the men and women injured in the conflicts and to record their experiences. It also features photographs of THEIR heroes – people who work tirelessly to support them.  

What was even more moving was that 25 of the badly injured had turned up to celebrate the publication of the book. I met Joe – a young lad who had lost both legs after standing on an anti personnel mine. It's early days for him, but his attitude was quite remarkable. There was also Mark Ormrod who lost both legs and one of his arms – six months after this he'd taken part in a charity parachute jump to raise money for the Forces Charity SSAFA. His lovely wife Becky was with him. 

Help for Heroes lads cutting the exhibition ribbon

If you saw the TV documentary last night called 'Wounded', you'd have seen Tom with the same injuries as Mark. He joked with me that his only regret was that he had ginger hair… I told him it was definitely more auburn than red!

Matt Kingston was shot throught the ankle and had the same prosthetic leg as Sam, we found out. He too had had a period of time where they tried to save his leg, but an amputation was also decided the best option for him to carry on with an active life. 

Martine and her family

Someone else I met was Martine Wiltshire (photo left), who lost both her legs in the London bombing. The photographs of her walking up the aisle a year later to marry her Nick were in all the newspapers at the time, and now she has a gorgeous 9-week-old son Oscar. She let me have a cuddle and she said how lucky she was to have such a beautiful boy… I couldn't speak…

I took the photo (above) of the lads cutting the ribbon to open the exhibition and would urge you to go along to see the photos. The atmosphere last Thursday night was positive and uplifting.

I have to admit to feeling quite choked at times, and yet immensely grateful at others. We all have sadness in our lives, and some regrets, but these incredibly brave men and women were inspirational – their families and carers too. We all felt very honoured to have been a part of the evening.
Love Ali x

7 Comments

  1. siobhan September 24, 2009 at 3:51 pm -  Reply

    hi alison…like most people i have thought all the news of our young soldiers being wounded & killed in Afghanistan is awful..but after watching ‘wounded’ last nite i was both humbled & moved seeing these young men try 2 rebuild their lives after such horrific injuries. It really brought it home 2me just what an amazing job they’re doing. I have a young baby son but had the discussion with my husband of how we would feel if he decided he wanted 2go & fight 4his country!! how would we feel? U must be so proud of ur son overcoming his injury the way he has. These young men are inspirational. Siobhan x

  2. Margaret September 24, 2009 at 11:00 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison,well what can I say all the boys in my opinion are truly GREAT we should all be very very proud of them, a friends Grandson goes in January and we will be thinking of him all the time but these special lads just seem to want to do their job and they dont let awful events pull them down, must mention the fab medics who look after our boys and they must see things we cant even imagine, make me feel bad when some days I have a moan , dont know we are born really do we, glad your lovely Sam is doing well , God bless them all , All good wishes Margaretxx

  3. Margaret September 24, 2009 at 11:07 pm -  Reply

    Hi Alison, just to add an apology to all the girls I only mentioned the boys and of course we have all our wonderful service GIRLS think I had boys in mind thinking of my friends Grandson so very sorry ,Bless them all Margaretxx

  4. alison keenan September 25, 2009 at 11:53 am -  Reply

    Siobahn, thank you so much for your comment, and congratulations on your little son – you must both be very proud. It’s a tricky one, thinking of how you’d feel about your boy joining the forces and heading off to another country in a war zone. I know when Sam and Jack were small I used to think I’d hide them away if war broke out so they wouldn’t have to enlist…! Now at 16 and 20 years old I realise that they – like us at that age – will make their own minds up, and should either of them choose – or have chosen – to go into the forces it’s not a decision I would have been able, or have wanted to change. Yes of course I would be worried sick, but also I am certain, very proud. For Sam of course it’s no longer an option but thank you for your kind words about his recovery. He’s done so well and is my hero :) Love Ali x

  5. alison keenan September 25, 2009 at 11:58 am -  Reply

    Dear Margaret, you are lovely, and I knew you meant the girls too :) i agree completely with you. Thank Heavens there are men and women prepared to put themselves in positions of such risk to protect us. What I found moved me most were that a lot of the lads I met were younger even than Sam…As parents we get such a short time to protect THEM don’t we? I wish your friend’s grandson love and positive thought and I am sure all will be well. You take care and I hope your aches and pains aren’t getting you down to much these days. Love Ali x

  6. Kristina Moore September 27, 2009 at 7:50 pm -  Reply

    Hello Alison, the boys and girls who go to war and those that stay here to guard us are all amazing. The physical injuries are awful and difficult to cope with but the psychological ones must not be forgotten either. These are the sort that are even more difficult to deal with for the service men and women themselves and their families. I sincerely hope everyone gets the help they deserve for both sorts of injury. I remember watching the programmes on Simon Weston after the Falklands War. They were inspiring too.
    Best wishes to you and all your family
    Kristina

  7. alison keenan September 28, 2009 at 10:31 am -  Reply

    I completely agree Kristina, and it’s a very pertinent point to make. Whatever the war, in whichever century, those who weren’t able to talk to anyone about how they felt, no doubt suffered terribly. My grandfather – who lied about his age – and fought in Ypres and Passchendale in the First World War, was gassed and shell shocked and lost his best friend, the first time they went ‘over the top’….He talked to my nanny about it once, and never again. He used to go walking in the dead of night as he could still hear the guns and it stopped him from sleeping… I’m sure our forces provide the very best care for those suffering in this way, and know that sometimes it’s what you can’t see that causes the most hurt. Thank you for writing and I hope you have a good week. Very best wishes to you and your family too. Ali x

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