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After 23 years serving with the King’s Royal Hussars, a medical discharge meant that overnight former staff sergeant Mark lost not only his livelihood, but a support network that had become his family.  

Feeling adrift from society and his own extended family, he experienced feelings of isolation and loneliness that sadly is a reality for thousands of men and women upon leaving the Armed Forces. 

That ‘middle ground’ 

“You’re not in the military anymore, but you’re not quite a civilian, you’re in that middle ground. It is really hard. I haven’t had anything to do with my extended family for a long time. When you’re away, your family carry on and you carry on. A real ‘years apart’ divide can develop.” said Mark 

“When I went on sick leave, I felt like I lost my army family. I hadn’t foreseen my army career suddenly ending, I hadn’t prepared for it. It was like the rug was ripped from under me. But then I met people who understood.” 

Mark Hepworth during service in a tank
Mark Hepworth during service in a tank

Mark’s wife Alex also struggled after Mark’s medical discharge for complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She gave up her job working with primary aged children to help him with his recovery, and they both received support for their mental health.

Alex said: “It was such an uncertain time in our lives, we felt absolutely helpless and didn’t know what we were going to do; we felt scared, lost and lonely. 

“Saying it all out loud put everything in order for me and I could work out the answers for myself. It’s a brilliant service.” 

Isolation at Christmas 

Mark and Alex want to raise awareness of the isolation veterans can experience, and the support that is available. 

“I know a lot of guys at the moment are really lost. Coronavirus has left a lot of them feeling more  isolated” Mark said.  

For many Veterans Christmas can be a really hard time. Whilst other families are celebrating, for some it can be a time of real isolation and withdrawal.  

“I'm never going to say that every day is going to be easy for people, but you take your day whether it's good, or it's difficult, and you work on it. You move on. You get there eventually. When you talk to other people who say ‘I know how you feel’ the problem is halved and then quartered. It’s difficult, but you take one step at a time.” 

Mark and Alex are now looking forward to making some special memories with their kids this Christmas. 

Alex said: “Mark has always found Christmas a little difficult, which I think is quite common. Since we’ve had kids it’s really helped because we have our little traditions, which we try to keep.” 

Mark & Alex modeling our Christmas PJ's
Mark & Alex modeling our Christmas PJ's - Help for Heroes

Mark and Alex, have come a long way since they took their first steps toward recovery with Help for Heroes and this year they are the cover stars of our winter trading catalogue, modelling our Christmas pyjamas.  

If you or a loved one are struggling at this time of year, Help for Heroes can offer life changing support to help get you back on track. Visit our get help page to find out more.