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.
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.
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