I first met Tony when we joined the Royal Marines in March 1978. We immediately started a keen friendship whilst in the Troop being very similar in our views. This friendship continued when we were placed into Chosin Troop, the rehabilitation troop, after we were both injured during the training.
Unfortunately we were split up when I returned to training and Tony stayed in Chosin still rehabilitating after his terrible shoulder injury. I left training and left our friendship for a while. I served as a Section 2ic in 40 Commando in the Falklands in 1982 and had some significant experiences which have never left me. On leaving the Royal Marines and after several years I started a Veterans Association specifically for Falkland Veterans. At this time Rick Jolly and Denzil Connick were starting SAMA 82 and on advice from Julian Thompson and their Board I threw in with them and became their Chairman for a term. This Association is an excellent environment for individuals to make sense of their experiences without being confronted by 'the system'. I strongly believe there is much work to be done for those who suffer from their experiences during service, and I am very aware that you need not have had to see combat to be affected by this.
Then, out of the blue, Tony arrived again. What a day! We spoke for hours having not spoken for 34 years and found again that we had very similar ideas. I am absolutely in awe of what Tony is doing for the former service community. I am almost unable to express myself due to this awe, but I am absolutely sure that his service to others should be recognised by a greater audience. If we had more men like him the former military community would be in a much healthier state. Helping others is at the heart of the military ethos and is clearly exemplified by Tony and Forward Assist Veteran Support Charity. Supporting the Veterans of Her Majesties Armed Forces is a subject which engenders controversy from the halls of Government to the backrooms of the MOD and requires an altruistic individual to stand up and be counted in order for a difference to be made.
The myth that the Royal British Legion can solve our contemporary issues within the services is, in my opinion, outdated and unattractive to the modern service person who finds it a difficult process to engage with when already suffering from the trauma of service life and/or battle conditions. This also goes for other high profile modern charities. These all help our retired personnel in their own way but there is a piece of the jigsaw missing. The piece is for true, local, easy to access, honourable and trustworthy people to take up the baton and help their local people overcome the demons of service. This has been done exceptionally well by Tony and Forward Assist.Some may say that long service is required to understand the military system but through experience I have found this to be quite un-true. Some of our best service personnel served short and intense periods and have become casualties of the system and have then become casualties of the CJS, this is where Tony comes in. Traditionally this area has been ‘poo-pooed’ by the higher echelons of military society but it is a fact and we need people to help these individuals who have been failed by the very system they served. I believe Tony has contributed to the former-service community in a unique and positive way and I hope that this will be recognised by others. An honourable man working for honourable people.