‘Pin their hopes’… what does it mean?

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I was at the launch of Kent Poppy Appeal last week, where the theme for the event was ‘Service families pin their hopes on you’. A clever play on words, as we each pin on our poppies in Remembrance at this time of year – but, what does it really mean?

By the end of the year, the Legion will have responded to over 1,600 calls for help from our service men and women in Kent alone – around 30 people each week will have decided enough is enough, I need help. It is the Legion they turn to, and it is money from the Poppy Appeal that helps them to get their lives back on track.

I am in the lucky position to meet with some of our service men and women, and to hear their stories and to share in their success and delight as they rebuild their lives. But it is often their families who move us the most – because you don’t have to have a service background to appreciate their stories – you simply have to understand the love and care families share. Uniquely, the Legion helps all generations of the Armed Forces community, and their families.

So I was pleased that we not only had six veterans, but also some of the wives, a mother and a son, to help launch the Poppy Appeal in Kent this year.

Every one of the veterans at the launch have received support from the Legion to help change their lives, and without exception each of them will proudly tell you that they could only have done it with the support of their family. To help mark the start of Kent Poppy Appeal, the six veterans and their families, symbolically ‘pinned’ large poppies onto the front of County Hall, but it was through their media interviews that the true story of the Poppy Appeal was told.

“Sorry, I can’t help the tears”, said Nicola Seager, mother to young ex-Army man Steven, as she told her side of the story to a radio station. She talked about discovering Steven passed out on the sofa surrounded by bottles, and the fear of not knowing what to do and how to cope with Steven as he was struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

It was hard to see Nicola so upset and to hear her traumatic story – but it was great to listen when she talked about how the Legion provided Steven with practical and financial support and gave them so much “love and care”. But what struck me the most was when Nicola said she couldn’t thank the Legion enough for giving her son back to her. She explained: “To have lost Steven when he was out in Iraq on Ops would have been devastating, but it would have been just as bad if we had lost him after he came home.”

Nicola Seager stood alongside her son to be presented with one of the first poppies at the Kent Poppy Appeal Launch last week, along with all the other veterans and their family members. They all looked so proud as the poppies were pinned on. Families that have shared highs and lows, each with a different story to tell, but united in their message for this year’s Poppy Appeal that ‘Service families pin their hopes on you’.

Clare Saunders, Community Fundraiser for the Royal British Legion

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