A Decade Supporting Those Who Served -Written by Ed Parker
Ten years ago, Walking With The Wounded (‘WWTW’) was registered with the Charity Commission. At the time, we thought our expedition to the North Pole was going to be a one-off.
We hoped to raise a bit of cash, raise awareness and then return to our lives and carry on. How wrong we were. As with so many things, we were lucky, with both our timing and the unexpected and defining support given to us by Prince Harry. Now, ten years on, WWTW is a crucial part of the military charity space, providing care, support and advice to those who have struggled in their transition from the military, finding themselves socially isolated, unemployed, on the periphery of the criminal justice system, often with mental ill health and many, alcohol dependent. That said, we must be careful to portray a realistic picture of our veteran population, as 90 per cent leave the military and successfully move into the civilian and corporate world, and are invaluable in their contribution, skills and expertise. The 10 per cent who do struggle need support and within this group there are those with multiple, complex needs. WWTW supports this cohort.
The charity has had some incredible moments over the past decade, although it is difficult to single out a few events and outcomes that does justice to the extraordinary hard work of the team at the charity. I have always said that I have the easy job. Those working directly with our beneficiaries have the hardest graft and make the biggest difference. I have been humbled by their compassion and dedication. Ultimately, WWTW is a people business, and I think the greatest single spotlight I can place on what has happened over the last 10 years is the dedication and impact of our staff, all of whom, in whichever team or department, make the difference. As we celebrate our 10th Year Anniversary, the staff and volunteers at WWTW are the ones who have enabled this journey to happen. They should be applauded.
Of course, the obvious highlights would be our expeditions. It is from where we came, with teams reaching both the North and South Pole, valiantly attempting Everest, walking 1,000 miles around Britain, and most recently crossing the USA. All extraordinary feats of human endeavour and all demonstrating that despite injury, whether physical or psychological, ex-servicemen and women can achieve remarkable things. Too often, our veteran community is adorned with pity and is patronised. If we can do anything because of our 10th Year Anniversary, let it be the fact that we remind people of the skill, talent, determination and value these men and women have to their families, their communities and their workplace.
On the other hand, we have achieved so much more beyond our expeditions. When we set up Walking With The Wounded, many people told us that there were too many military charities. However, we have found a clearly defined niche and we are good at what we do operationally. Over the past 10 years, as an organisation we have supported 8,664 ex-servicemen, women and their families through our programmes, focusing on employment, mental health and reaching those at risk of entering the criminal justice system. The number of veterans that we help has increased over the past decade. In fact, in 2019 we supported 1,875 individuals, a 28 per cent increase compared to 2018. These figures show that there is a clear demand for the services we offer to the veteran community.
I am also proud that WWTW has established a clearly defined strategy and a strong culture of collaboration, working with a plethora of organisations. Hearing others who we work alongside extolling our virtues is the greatest compliment we can get. Of these partnerships, the most important and impactful is that with the National Health Service (‘NHS’). It should be the first port of call for any veteran or family member. Above all, we are all citizens of this country, we all pay our taxes and therefore the care pathway should always start there. As a charity, we strive to work alongside this institution, providing expertise and understanding, adding ‘veteran’ value to the care being provided by the NHS and ensuring as good a service as possible is given. We must continue to reinforce the work of the NHS for our veteran community and ensure the government’s feet are kept to the fire. A strong military charity sector is no excuse for our politicians to look the other way.
The final highlight for me has been the ability to reconnect with the men and women who served. I have been reminded almost every day of the privilege it was to serve alongside these extraordinary people. There is a sense of camaraderie that is almost impossible to define to those who have not served in the military. A sense of belonging and purpose that does not go away. We all did something, collectively, often in highly complex, dangerous circumstances, with a huge degree of compassion, professionalism, empathy, friendship and bravery.
As a country, we do not appreciate these remarkable men and women enough. I hope in 10 years’ time, when WWTW celebrates its 20th Year Anniversary that will have changed.
There are many ways that you can help us to celebrate our 10th Year Anniversary, such as setting up a monthly donation. We are always incredibly grateful and humbled by the generous donations of our supporters.
For more information about monthly donations, click here.