Soldiering On
Soldiering On

Soldiering On: Who Could Win The 2018 People's Choice Award?

It's not long before the Soldiering On Awards announces which of its finalists will take home the People's Choice Award, which recognises...

Soldiering On

It's not long before the Soldiering On Awards announces which of its finalists will take home the People's Choice Award, which recognises the achievements of those who have served their country and the diverse people and groups who work together in support of the Armed Forces community.

The gong, sponsored by Forces Network, was selected by public vote before the winner is announced at a black-tie ceremony on Friday.

The special evening at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel will be attended by finalists from each category, with nominations having been welcomed from the Armed Forces community and public.

You can take a look at the full list of finalists below...

Lt Charley Tysler RN, Dr Allie Bennington, Mrs Carolyn Crissman: Invictus Games Choir - Inspiration Award category


Soldiering On People's Choice Awards finalists 2018 - Invictus Games Choir

The Invictus Games Choir has helped wounded, injured and sick (WIS) veterans and serving personnel to sing in a group, in public, as part of their recovery.

Its members see psychological and physical benefits in taking part, aiding them in their rehabilitation from a wide range of physical and mental illnesses and injuries.

Organisers say the therapeutic benefits of singing are similar to those gained from participating in sport and being given the opportunity to sing with like-minded people who've been through similar experiences helps to recapture the camaraderie of the military.

They also argue it allows those who don't, or can't, take part in sport to become engaged again in life and so boost their recovery.

Lt Tysler was one of the original Invictus Games Choir (IGC) members and realised that there was a need to expand it to include more WIS personnel and veterans.

After securing the help of Dr Bennington and Mrs Crissman, the trio managed to expand the choir to include over 40 members, with a musical director and accompanist.

They've also recently managed to secure sponsorship from Help for Heroes (H4H) to allow them to purchase uniforms.

Charley undertook the work while dealing with her own medical issues and subsequent medical discharge for a physical injury.

Allie and Carolyn, meanwhile, both have full-time jobs with Help for Heroes and took on the organisation and administration of the IGC voluntarily and outside of their job roles.

They created and submitted the case to gain support from H4H for the choir and continue to arrange rehearsal weekends, deal with all administration support and assist the emotional support of the choir members.

Members of the choir travel from Cornwall, Germany, Northern Ireland and from all over the rest of the mainland to come to sing.

The choir, which sang at Twickenham for the 2017 Army Navy Match, say they owe a debt of gratitude to Charley, Allie and Carolyn for all their hard work and dedication.

Luke Delahunty - Inspiration Award category


Soldiering On People's Choice Awards finalists 2018 - Luke Delahunty

Luke Delahunty had barely started out in life when a motorbike accident changed it in an instant.

Paralysed from the chest down, he faced having to rebuild his life at just 24 years old.

Luke was eight years into a career as a gunner with the RAF Regiment and had seen tours in Germany, Northern Ireland and Cyprus. He had been overtaking a line of traffic which was slowed by a tractor ahead. The tractor turned into his path and Luke struck it.

The 18-ton trailer it was pulling ran over Luke's chest, causing severe internal injuries. On the way to hospital, doctors were concerned he would not survive the crash, such was the severity of his injuries.

The incident ended Luke's military career and months of painful recovery in hospital followed. But he found a light in the darkness of his paralysis and began to take part in sport as part of his treatment. He took up handcycling, rowing and wheelchair rugby.

It helped him let go of his anger at having his career cut short and his life changed forever into a force for good, with Luke achieving selection to the UK Team for the Invictus Games, not once but twice.

But it is Luke's work with young people facing the same diagnosis which stands him out as an inspiration to others.

He became a mentor for people at the National Spinal Injuries Centre in Stoke Mandeville Hospital, seeking out those who were overwhelmed by the unexpected turn their lives had taken.

As well as taking up new disability sports as part of his own rehabilitation, Luke has also cycled to Paris and been on scuba diving and skiing trips.

He also visits schools and gives talks to young people demonstrating how to overcome adversity and achieve their goals, including teaching them what it means to be a wheelchair user and the opportunities available.

Luke was assisted by the RAF Benevolent Fund when he first left the forces, who provided furnishings for his home and purchased IT equipment.

The charity also contributed to the cost of a hand cycle to ensure Luke was able to continue his quest for sporting excellence.

Daniel Fielding: Turn to Starboard - Sporting Excellence Award category


Soldiering On People's Choice Awards finalists 2018 - Daniel Fielding

Dan Fielding was medically discharged with a back injury from the Royal Marines in 2008 and was reaching the depths of despair.

He spent several years 'just drifting along' and began to struggle with his mental health. He ended up needing treatment and took part in a veterans' support group. Dan said:

"When you get out of the military you can feel a bit useless. And with a painful injury I wasn't sure what to do with the rest of my life."

It wasn't until 2015 that Dan managed to turn his life around after he was introduced to the Cornish sailing charity Turn to Starboard.

The organisation helps injured veterans by teaching them to sail and help start new careers in the marine industry.

Dan immediately fell in love with the sport of sailing and found the calming effects of the sea beneficial to his physical and mental health.

Within three months he had passed his Day Skipper exam, proving his capability to safely skipper a small cruising yacht. Just two months later and showing an incredible learning ability and determination, he qualified as an RYA Yachtmaster. He says:

"Sailing has allowed me to start living again. When I was medically discharged I felt like I was being told I was no use anymore, and I believed it. Now I am right up at the top again."

As his new sporting career progressed, Dan was offered a permanent role as a sailing instructor with the charity to teach other injured veterans how to sail.

Last year, he was appointed second-in-command on the charity's Round Britain Challenge, sailing 2,000 miles around the British Isles miles with 38 other injured veterans on board a tall ship to help participants re-engage and gain new skills.

Upon his return and motivated to succeed, Dan sat the ultimate sailing exam - Yachtmaster Instructor. He passed with flying colours and is now qualified to teach other experienced sailors to a similar level.

Dan is now once again sailing around the British Isles as expedition leader on a second Round Britain challenge with 17 injured veterans - many with little or no sailing experience. He is solely responsible for the safety and development of the crew as they navigate Britain's coastline.

His success has been achieved through personal sacrifice and tireless dedication, far exceeding that expected in his role.

His impressive efforts in the sport have helped countless other veterans suffering with physical injury or mental trauma and he is regarded by many as an influential role model. 

Services to Film - X-Forces Business of the Year Award - Scale-Up category


Whilst on resettlement after seven years of service in the Light Dragoons, Charlie Rotheram was offered a role as an extra on Les Miserables.

The extras agency had specifically requested that individuals had 'military experience'.

Of the 60 individuals who had been given the job, however, only four had actually served in the British forces.

The remainder, he argued, had been 'very economical with the truth', or only had very limited experience in the cadets. Charlie realised that there was an opportunity to start an extras agency that provided temporary work for genuine veterans.

Not only was there a demand from the film industry for reliable and conscientious individuals, but the temporary nature of the work provided the perfect stepping stone for those on resettlement to be able to have an income whilst establishing themselves in their new life outside the military. Thus Soldier In Blue (SIB) was born in 2014, before later becoming 'Services to Film'.

Primarily providing veterans as extras for the UK film industry, it's helped create films such as Darkest Hour and Transformers: The Last Knight.

It's provided tank crews for Fury, starring Brad Pitt, drill instructors and military drummers for Testament of Youth, and former fast jet pilots to advise X-Wing pilots in Star Wars how to more realistically look like they were piloting aircraft.

Since 2014, it's employed over 700 veterans and paid them almost £400,000 in total. Some have worked on numerous projects and become regulars, working around their other jobs and self-employment, while others have only done one job for a few days whilst they were looking for employment or between jobs.

The company says this has provided invaluable income to these individuals at a critical juncture in their professional careers, and given them a vital financial crutch. It's also given groups of service leavers time on set together where they can share their plans for the future and discuss resettlement opportunities, as well as enjoying a bit of forces camaraderie.

Services to Film has around 3,000 veterans registered on its website/database, with a charity partnership agreed with Walking With The Wounded, which will receive 10% of the company's profits in 2018.

Charlie runs the company in his spare time, alongside his main job and whilst also serving as a sub-unit commander in the Royal Yeomanry as a reservist.

Venture Trust: Positive Futures - Forces in Mind Trust - Working Together Award category


Soldiering On People's Choice Awards finalists 2018 - Venture Trust Positive Futures

The Venture Trust's Positive Futures programme supports ex-service personnel who are struggling with the transition to civilian life.

Through links with more than 29 partners, the personal development programme identifies and engages those most in need of support and helps them to access wider support services relevant to each participant's individual needs.

They are connected with an outreach worker who supports them to define their goals and ambitions, stabilise their lives and identify the choices, actions or behaviours that are holding them back.

They then embark on a "wilderness journey", designed to provide time and space away from existing surroundings, which uses the outdoors as a catalyst for positive change, redeploying skills learnt within the military to be utilised in civilian life.

At the end of the journey, each participant is supported to create a personal action plan, outlining their specific goals for the coming days, weeks and months.

Back in their community, the outreach worker continues providing one-to-one support to help apply what has been learnt, overcome barriers and move forward positively.

Partner agencies include Veterans First Point, Scottish Veterans Residences, SAMH, social work teams and Glasgow's Helping Heroes.

Mark, a former Royal Navy submariner, left the service in 2013 and while initially throwing himself into making a new life, he soon found the demands of his new life overwhelming.

In 2016 he was diagnosed with depression, which eventually resulted in him leaving his job.

He had a fractious dispute with neighbours that led to intervention with authorities and was subsequently referred to Venture Trust in July 2016.

Since joining the Positives Futures programme he has also connected with Veteran's 1st Point, Step Together and enrolled on a SAAFA Lifeworks employability course.

On completion of the wilderness journey he undertook further 'Speak Up' employability training and was one of three ex-service personnel selected for a paid six-month traineeship at Venture Trust. The traineeship finished at the end of September, at which point Mark said:

"As a veteran who was struggling to cope with certain things in life I found the programme gave me great support.

"I had a brilliant wilderness experience and learned a lot about myself.

"I have been able to build on the experience and I now have a much stronger belief in myself. My confidence has grown and I depart with self-belief and positive anticipation."

The programme has been running for two years and 115 ex-service personnel have benefitted from the support, with monitoring showing a marked improvement in confidence (81%), employability (80%), stability (67%), relationships (49%) and access to local services (56%).

An evaluation of the programme will be completed in 2018 and findings will be shared throughout the sector.

The Not Forgotten Association - Inspiration Award category


The Not Forgotten Association was formed in 1920 to provide comfort, cheer and entertainment for injured service personnel. It aims to enable veterans and service personnel to get together to share stories, open up about their struggles and share coping strategies.

The charity has been nominated by a Gulf War veteran who suffers from physical ailments and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of their service.

They were introduced to it at a time of their life when they had hit rock bottom, having attempted to take their own life and spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

Listening to other veterans' stories, what they had been through and how many had struggled, especially with nightmares, helped them realise that they weren't on their own.

They've since attended events like a Buckingham Palace garden party and took part in the National Three Peaks Challenge, which sees participants climb the highest mountains of England, Scotland and Wales in 24 hours. They said:

"They have quite literally saved my life... We begin to feel comfortable about being honest - because the guy sitting next to you understands exactly where you are coming from, and doesn't judge you."

"You start to trust people again, and no longer feel like you are a nutcase or a hypochondriac. You feel that you are no longer forgotten and that you do matter."

The charity has just nine staff working at its head office and most are part-time, but yet it tries to support at least 10,000 veterans a year.

It boasts characters like its Head of Events Rosie Thompson, who has personally raised over £100,000 by running marathons across the world, raising much-needed funds and raising the charity's profile.

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