Deciding what to do when you leave the military can be difficult. It’s an exciting, but often daunting time, but for Poppy Pawsey from Dorset, her life was turned upside down when she was medically discharged in March 2017.
Poppy video blogged (vlogged) her way through the Invictus Games for Forces Radio BFBS, sharing her personal experience with you. Watch the first one above.
Poppy served with the Royal Marines Band Service for 12 years.
Her journey started in the unique yet gruelling recruitment process, which includes a five-day audition and 16 weeks of basic training, or as she puts it…
“… people shouting in your face, fainting around you and generally getting beasted.”
This was followed by two years and eight months of intense musical training.
Poppy successfully completed training and despite having never played the violin before, officially joined the Royal Marines Band Service as a violinist, saxophonist and vocalist.
Her time as a Bandsman was an incredible adrenaline-charged experience, which saw her tour the world, playing and singing on national television, at The Royal Albert Hall, The Royal Wedding, The Olympics and even at the King’s Birthday celebrations in Tonga.
However, because Poppy was shorter than her Royal Marines Band Service colleagues, it meant that she had a unique problem.
For every stride the band took in a march, Poppy had to ‘over-stride’ to keep the pace.
Over time this began to affect her physiology, so much so that it ultimately resulted in chronic hip, groin, back and shoulder pain.
While rehearsing for The Horse Guards Parade in 2013 Poppy explained that her body…
“… just kind of said I can’t do this anymore”.
No longer able to march, or stand for longer than 10 minutes without being in severe pain, Poppy was finally discharged from service in March 2017. Poppy explains:
“I kind-off hit rock bottom for a bit… it’s so sudden… you know, you walk into a room with a job and then you walk out without one… and you can never go back into uniform. It was really a bit of a shock.”
Full of self-doubt and low in confidence, Poppy showed great strength in the face of adversity by applying for the Invictus Games and the Forces Media Academy – a free one-year Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Creative Media Production which aims to provide ex-service personnel with the training, experience and qualifications they need to forge successful careers in videography, digital, TV or radio.
With no physical signs of injury, Poppy assumed Invictus “wasn’t for people like her” and was set-up to support war veterans who’d physically lost limbs. Poppy explains:
“Chronic pain is one of those horrible things… you can’t see it, but you’re living with it daily. I manage it now as best I can, but I still have flair ups.”
Then one morning her life was turned around. Poppy explains:
“The day I got an email saying ‘congratulations you’ve made Invictus’, an hour later I got an email saying ‘congratulations, you’ve just made the Forces Media Academy... So on the Sunday I had no clue where my life was going, on the Monday it was all planned. How a day can change your life.”
Poppy competed in this year’s Invictus Games in archery and swimming and now has the opportunity to take the first steps towards a career in media with the new Forces Media Academy.
Having always been in front of the camera, Poppy has very little media experience and having just lost her job, she wasn’t sure she would be successful in her application.
But the Forces Media Academy recognised Poppy’s potential and creative flair and she was awarded a place on the 2017 course.
A few months ago Poppy was unsure of her future and at “rock-bottom”.
Now through initiatives such as the Invictus Games and the Forces Media Academy, a very deserving, ambitious and talented young lady has been given a new lease of life, some hope, a purpose and direction.