Whatever your opinion on war, the Middle East, and the British Armed Forces, there is no escaping the bare fact that they exist. And with the international community untrusting, unstable and unwilling to completely drop military presences throughout the world, they are going to remain an integral part of the experience of life. What’s more, even in the 21st century, the armed forces still offer men and women an opportunity of employment – which at present is a no-brainer benefit – and the old adage, a chance to travel and ‘see the world’.
In a bid to challenge my own, perhaps ignorant, perceptions of the armed forces, and to talk to people who have a real, informed knowledge of the role that they play, I met up with two members of Strathclyde’s Help for Heroes society who provided a student’s slant on the much debated issue, as well as keenly telling me about the society, and why they regard it so highly.
President Gregor Gomez and Publicity Officer Cameron Brown, are both second year students at the university studying Physics and History. Gregor and Cameron are also active members of the forces – the Air Squadron and Fourth Parachute Regiment respectively. They have carried this passion into student life by joining the Help for Heroes society, which through exhilarating money-spinning adventures raises money for the Help for Heroes charity. Whether or not jumping out of an aeroplane at 10,000 feet, or running mile upon mile with a heavy rucksack on your back is everyone’s cup of tea, the society certainly knows how to put on a show.
Help for Heroes was set up in October 2007 by Bryn and Emma Parry, and the registered charity is, according to its mission statement, a ‘strictly non-political and non-critical’ organisation whose sole desire is to help wounded servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Through fundraising events and donations the charity has so far raised £117.91 million, which has gone towards the establishment of recovery centres for the wounded and has provided financial support for their families. With the Iraq War now officially over, this issue of after-care is as resonant as ever.
The University of Strathclyde is currently the only university in Britain to have a dedicated society to the Help for Heroes charity. Regional coordinator for the charity, Mike Dickenson, is currently trying to forge links with The University of Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of the West of Scotland with the hope of setting up similar organisations. This is surely an accolade for Strathclyde.
Cameron considers what made Strathclyde students get involved with such an organisation and has commented on how a significant number of people look negatively towards the forces, believing that “the forces is a bunch of b****cks.”
In regards to this Gregor stated that, “You have to take opposition on the chin. If people are misinformed, you fill them in.” To which Cameron agrees, saying that it is the very fact that Help for Heroes is not political that makes it so great. This mentality is evident in theatres of war he argues, “The guys are fighting for the lad next to him, for each other (not for the government or political parties). That’s what is so brilliant about the forces.” This reminds me of Gregory Burke’s ‘Black Watch’. Or maybe it’s just the Scottish accent.
The society has now raised about £6,000 through various, adrenaline-charged, fundraising-events. The sponsored skydive at Strathallan Skydiving Centre, which took place in July, is responsible for raising the majority of their grand total so far. The 120mph free-fall was followed by a FRAT-style party, complete with beer-pong and BBQ. Cameron himself took part in the 2010 Commando Speed March at Spean Bridge – a 7-mile, gruelling march whilst carrying 37 pounds worth of equipment in Highland weather – and raised nearly £200 for Help for Heroes.
So what will 2012 bring for the society? Another skydive is planned for the summer, which is sure to be another success. The society will also, no doubt, fall back upon the trusty student tradition of pub-crawls in order to help raise money. So, whether you’re an adrenalin junky or just enjoy the odd hole-in-one, there’s plenty to tempt you in to getting involved with the Help for Heroes society. For more information check out its website – h4hsociety.weebly.com
By Cait Gillespie
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