Help for Heroes beneficiary Laura Dunning first got involved with the charity in late 2009, shortly after getting together with her partner Pete, a former Royal Marine and member of the Band of Brothers fellowship.
Laura said: “I joined the Band of Sisters and got lots of support initially because I was struggling with Pete being away with the Combined Services Disabled Ski Team. Pete and I got together post-injury and so I wasn't really used to a military lifestyle and lengthy periods of absence. Help for Heroes very much guided me through it.”
Pete was injured in May 2008 when the Viking he was travelling in drove over an IED, and lost both of his legs during life-saving surgery in Camp Bastion. He also broke his back, had numerous burns to his body and a punctured lung.
After rekindling an old spark, Laura and Pete became a couple and married in 2012, before having two children, Ava and Noah. In February 2016, Laura took part in the Help for Heroes trek to Burma, alongside other beneficiaries, supporters and fundraisers.
“The woman that left for Burma was not the woman that returned. The person I was before was a mum, a wife, a carer. But the trek changed me. I loved being removed from the control of day to day living, and wanted to make my family proud – to make my children realise that Mummies too can achieve anything they put their minds to.
“The team effort on a trek is apparent, there is so much banter and support. There was time to think and process what I was undertaking sometimes. I had nowhere else to be, nothing to worry me, nobody needed me and I was completely at peace. Being able to offload in confidence gave me the strength to just shed some of the stress and anxiety of life. For once I felt understood.
“We chatted for hours with the ease of friends who have known each other a lifetime. We marvelled at the millions of stars in the sky and once again I felt more alive than ever, despite knowing how small a part I play in the universe. When we finished the trek, tears fell for our achievements, sacrifices of the years gone by and the utter realisation that we had rediscovered ourselves.
“I’m reminded often of the importance of the trek, the work that Help for Heroes continues to do and how important these opportunities are to the health and wellbeing of beneficiaries.”
“I just can't convey the enormity of the experience for me. The pre-Burma me was fearful, pessimistic – a constant worrier. The Laura that came alive in Burma is courageous, fearless and alive with an appetite for taking every opportunity out of life.”
“To anyone that has not yet accessed help and support from Help for Heroes I would say don't be scared to pick up the phone or drop an email. There is always some helpful and friendly advice or a guide in the right direction at the other end. I'll be forever indebted to Help for Heroes for the experience and as a result I've signed up to be a volunteer. I need to give something back to the charity and know that another Band of Sister gets the same opportunity as I did.”