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The recent storms have destroyed many a garden wall across the UK, but, in Exmouth, it helped cement friendships among a group of military veterans.

Only a few weeks ago some of the group had to be cajoled by our staff to leave their homes, meet fellow veterans, and try a local gym session organised by our team in the South-West.

But, in the middle of Storm Eunice, after their gym session was cancelled and they decided, instead, to go on a walk, one of the group, Andy McGlynn, posted in their WhatsApp group that he would not be joining them as his garden wall had fallen foul of Eunice.

No sooner had the message been received than the band of brothers – plus their gym coach Ash Phillips – turned up at McGlynn’s property to help out. And, like his wall before him, the 49-year-old former Royal Marine was blown away by their generosity.

McGlynn, who lives in Exmouth, explained: “The guys were unbelievable. I didn’t ask any of them to help me. I put on our group chat that I wouldn’t be able to make our walk because my wall had blown down … and they turned up! What an absolutely amazing group of people.

“I’m so humbled; what should have been a pretty miserable day turned into something really special. I know I’ve only been part of the group for a short time, but I feel like they’ve been my friends forever. I can’t thank them enough. What’s more Ash, our gym coach, turned up as well. We’re so lucky to have him.”

Ash and Andy at work! - Help for Heroes

Having shelved their hastily arranged plans for a walk to replace their gym session, the four-strong group – former Royal Marines Commando ‘Taff’ Hewitt; Stu McKenzie (former Army Royal Corps of Transport); ‘Poppy’ Pawsley (ex-Royal Marines Band) and Phillips – turned up at McGlynn’s home, and immediately set to the task of collecting, and making good, all the bricks, so they were ready for when the bricklayer arrived to reconstruct the wall.

The regular group gym session is organised by Hannah Lake, a our Sport, Activity & Fellowship Practitioner, and delivered by Phillips. Lake believes it is a wonderful example of how peer support can build a community and create close bonds.

She said: “It was only in January that Andy joined our class at CrossFit Exmouth, yet the group has evolved into an incredibly special friendship and shows what they can achieve. Ash has done a great job in embedding the guys in the regular sessions.

“For many veterans just leaving their house can be a major step, let alone meeting new people and starting a new activity. Yet, here we are, just a few weeks later, and in typical military fashion, the guys are happy to muck in and work as a team to help one of their own. It’s a very heart-warming story and reminds me of why we, as a charity, do what we do.”

All in a day's work for Andy's 'Band of Brothers'
All in a day's work for Andy's 'Band of Brothers'

McGlynn admits that before the pandemic he would not have considered contacting Help for Heroes, but, in an attempt to alleviate potential isolation, he followed the guidance of a fellow veteran who was already in the Charity’s recovery programme and agreed to try the gym session. And he hasn’t looked back.

He added: “Help for Heroes has been so good for me. The levels of support are way above and beyond what I expected; I’m so glad to be part of it. I just wish I’d come to them for support earlier.

“The way these small groups work, delivered face-to-face in the community, is much more personal than I expected. Because the Charity is so large, I didn’t imagine how personal and friendly it is. It’s been a massive boost to both my physical and mental health during the last couple of months.”

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