Veterans from local Andover-based military charity Veterans in Action have completed a 4,000 mile-round walk around the UK, to raise awareness for the devastating effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Beginning and ending in Andover town centre, the veterans were warmly welcomed home by Lieutenant General Sir Mark Mans (Chief Royal Engineer) and The Worshipful the Mayor of Test Valley, Councillor Iris Andersen, on 31st August.
Veterans in Action Founder, Billy Macleod, commented: “Veterans in Action has helped numerous veterans both locally and nationally through our unique programme called “ALIVE”; raising their confidence, self-esteem and self-belief. This is done from our Andover “ALIVE” Centre.”
Accompanied by friends, family, fellow veterans and members of the public throughout the epic hike, the group were not only able to use the walk to raise much needed awareness across the country for the debilitating emotional and physical effects of the illness, but also as a therapeutic journey of acceptance; supporting each other, sharing stories and experiences, to come to terms with their pasts.
For veteran Keith, taking part in the walk has proved life-changing: “It has taken me 35 years to take the first scary steps to redress the demons that have shaped my life,” wrote Keith before starting the walk. “In the years since I left the army I have turned to drink, taken extreme risks in the need to feel that I was a man and not a coward. I have controlled and ruled people in my life in the hope of feeling good enough. It never has.
“I have seen things in the army that haunt me and obliterate the good memories from possibly the best time of mind life. I cannot move on from the horrors that define me.”
Since taking part in the walk, Keith’s outlook has drastically changed. “The person who wrote the above statement,” Keith explains. “Is not the same person writing this today and not someone I recognise anymore.
“I have just had a short break from the walk to go home and visit my family and they have noticed how calm I am, how tolerant and reasonable, compared to how I was before.
“Before I started this walk, I didn’t know what I was going to do tomorrow, nevermind in any distant future, but now I am thinking about the future and making plans; not just living day to day – now I look forward to what comes next.
“This is not the end of my journey but the beginning of my new life.”
Veterans in Action helps veterans who suffer the effects of war or who find the transition to civilian life difficult.
For more information about Veterans in Action, please visit: www.veteransinaction.org.uk
To read Keith’s full story, please visit: www.veteransinaction.org.uk/blog/walking-off-the-war/