The Veterans we support are more at risk of feeling isolated or lonely. They are more likely to be unemployed or suffer from mental health issues. While many of us celebrate Christmas and its power to bring family and friends together, this can be unrealistic for people facing these struggles.
Christmas can be a wonderful time of year, but when you are battling with your mental health or feeling isolated from your family, it can be impossible to feel festive.
This is unacceptable. Those who have put their lives on the line for us, many more than once, deserve better.
By signing up to Walking Home for Christmas or making a donation, you will raise vital funds that could help pay for:
For Julie Cassidy, life was turned upside down when her husband Glyn's military career was cut short due to illness and surgery. By the time Christmas arrived, Glyn was still recovering and Julie did not have the support she needed.
You can make a real difference to people like Julie and Glyn, not just for Christmas but for the rest of their lives.
Julie Cassidy’s life was turned upside down when her husband Glyn’s military career was cut short after he was diagnosed with Triple Vessel disease. He needed an emergency quadruple heart bypass to save his life.
When Julie first found out about Glyn’s diagnosis, she felt like she had lost everything.
“Just the thought of him not being here was heart-breaking. Glyn is the centre of our family. Because he was a soldier we lived where he lived, we went where he went. The girls were so proud that their dad was in the army. Everything stemmed from him. Our family wouldn’t be family without him.”
Glyn had the operation in July 2015 and when Christmas came around, he was still recovering.
Julie says: “The first Christmas we had after his op, I thought that people would come to see me, or him, or the family in general. But I started to notice that, actually, there was nobody there. Nobody knocked. Very few people stopped by to see if there was anything we needed. It was so lonely and isolating. I didn’t have the support that I needed.
Glyn’s consultant told the Cassidy family that the operation gave him 10 years until he would need to have another similar operation. But every year, this plays on Julie's mind. Those thoughts can lead to putting a lot of pressure on Christmas time and the festive season.
“If you’re not happy-go-lucky, people don’t want to be around you, especially at Christmas time. They don’t want their Christmas ruined. When I’m at home with Glyn and our two daughters I feel like we are in a perfect world. Then I step outside, and I have to explain to others the restrictions he has and sometimes their faces make me realise it’s not perfect.”
“But then I’ll see somebody wearing a Help for Heroes hoody or wristband and it’s so humbling, without the support of others we wouldn’t be where we are now.”
“I wouldn’t change our Christmases now – it’s shown us what’s important in life and brought our family closer together. Over Christmas now, we don’t let things bring us down. There is no point in worrying and stressing about things you can’t change. You’re wasting precious moments with the people you love.”
“If you can help somebody not feel lonely, then try. Because you don’t know what that person is going through.”
It was when Glyn started to become a bit more independent that Julie’s mental health began to suffer.
“I thought, he doesn’t need me anymore. I’ve spent all this time helping him and now I don’t know what I need to do in life. But Help for Heroes gave me the time to find myself, and get my own mental health back up to scratch.”
The couple also took their daughters along to Tedworth House Recovery Centre in Wiltshire, to show them how Help for Heroes can make such a huge difference to families who are struggling or feeling isolated.
“I asked the girls how they feel about Help for Heroes now they’ve seen it, and Sky said: ‘The name says it all Mum. They’re helping my Dad – my hero.’
“By donating or taking part in things like Walking Home for Christmas, you are showing heroes that you still care. Supporters of Help for Heroes keep the light going in our world.”