Everyone at Help for Heroes is deeply saddened by the death of our co-founder Bryn Parry CBE following a short illness with pancreatic cancer. We look back at some of the highlights from his remarkable work helping veterans and their families.
In August 2007 Bryn and Emma Parry visited Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham to talk to soldiers who had been wounded in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Bryn, who had been a Captain in the Royal Green Jackets, was shocked by the sheer number of service personnel being cared for and the severity of their wounds. Modern military medicine was saving soldiers who in former conflicts would have died on the battlefield. These were the so-called unexpected survivors.
That day Bryn and Emma decided that something had to be done for these servicemen and women. All of whom would face long periods of recovery. Some would have to cope with the consequences of their injuries for the rest of their lives.
Early the following week they published “The first dispatch from a new organisation we are going to call Help for Heroes.” They wrote:
“Help for Heroes (H4H) will be fully operational by September 2007. Our personal goal is to meet an initial target of £3 million. This will be used to provide the specialist swimming pool at the Defence Rehabilitation Centre, Headley Court, Surrey which General Sir Richard Dannatt (Professional head of the British Army) says is so urgently required. Naturally, our great hope is that others will raise or donate urgently needed cash far in excess of this amount.”
It is highly unlikely that the co-founders could have imagined what a tidal wave of good will they had unleashed. They hit a nerve of compassion in the nation and harnessed it through Help for Heroes.
The co-founders’ energy and creativity were astounding. One of the many fundraising endeavours they established was the signature ‘Help for Heroes Big Battlefield Ride’, which continues to this day.
Those who knew and worked with Bryn saw at his core an incredibly kind, earnest, and passionate soul, whose energy was contagious. In tricky moments or after a setback he was never daunted. Bryn didn’t shrink from difficult conversations. He was prepared, as he put it, ‘to be a pain in the arse’ if it meant defeating bureaucracy so that a wounded, sick or injured Hero wouldn’t have to wait for the care they needed.
Hearing Bryn quote his favourite phrase ‘onwards and upwards’ was all it took to stir those around him too. Supported, encouraged and advised by Emma, he was unstinting in his total, unwavering commitment to making the lot of the wounded servicemen and women as good as it could be.
Bryn was also a very talented artist, and his celebrated countryside cartoons were the inspiration for the much-loved Hero bear. There is a Hero Bear for various branches of the Armed Forces and associated professions, and he appears in cartoon form as drawn by Bryn or as life size costumes to join many fundraising activities and events.
As time has passed the needs of the wounded have changed, and the Charity has evolved in response, particularly in the area of mental health.
As Bryn himself said so perfectly a few years ago: “Today it’s still about the men and the women of our Armed Forces who have given our nation their all. It’s about the rest of their lives. It’s about finding the strength to battle with PTSD, to cope with isolation and anxiety. It’s about facing every day with physical and mental injuries. It’s about all the many veterans who still need our help. It’s about giving them one less battle to fight.”
Without Bryn, this Charity wouldn't be here. Without him, over 27,000 veterans and their families wouldn't have received lifechanging support. Bryn was instrumental in changing the focus of the nation and the way we regard both military service and wounded veterans.
Bryn’s founding principles and his no-nonsense approach of doing everything humanly possible to help our heroes, remain at the heart of all we do.
We offer our deepest sympathy and love to Emma, Sophie, Tom and Louisa.