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Lee West was a Combat Medical Technician in the British Army for 10 years before both physical and mental health challenges meant he had to leave the career and community he loved. Fortunately, Lee knew he could reach out to Help for Heroes for support.

But 80 years ago, when Lee’s grandfather, Frank, was medically discharged after being injured during the D-day landings, support was not available.

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In one explosion my grandad lost his job and his passion. It broke him.”

Lee West

Ex-Royal Army Medical Corps

“A shell exploded near him, and the shrapnel ripped through his right hand, basically destroying it. There was no option for him but medical discharge. He couldn’t shoot a rifle, and he also couldn’t play his trumpet.

“From that point, his life took a downward spiral. Looking back, he clearly faced severe mental health challenges. Today we’d call it PTSD, but in those days, it was called shell shock. Nobody talked to him about it, and he never really recovered.

“20 years ago, I also left the Army for medical reasons. And it broke me too.

“I struggled for a long time with my physical and mental health, but 80 years since my grandad’s discharge, things have changed. Asking for help is still hard, but getting it is easier thanks to Help for Heroes. They helped save my life.

In 1944, veterans and their families didn’t get the help they needed. But today, you can. 

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Hiding my anxiety worked for years. Then I was in Bosnia, on my first tour, and a Serbian soldier put a gun to my head.”

Lee West

Ex-Royal Army Medical Corps

“I remember thinking two things. First was, “He can’t do this.” And the second was, “He’s not shooting me with that dirty rifle.”

“Then I was back in the Land Rover. Safe from the Serbian soldier. Unharmed. And I thought it was all over. Except it wasn’t.

“By my second tour, I was really struggling. As a section commander, I had troops working under me, but I felt afraid of loads of things, and I couldn’t understand why. When the smallest thing happened, I panicked.

“I realised I had to leave the military.

“For years after I left, I felt as though I’d failed. I thought I was a coward for being weak and losing the job I loved. And I felt really alone.

Back in 1944, when my grandad was medically discharged, he struggled alone. Now, thanks to generous supporters, Help for Heroes is the most incredible safety net for veterans like me.”

Lee West

Ex-Royal Army Medical Corps

Whether 1944 or 2024. No matter when, or where someone served. Together, we can make sure no veteran, or their family suffers in silence. 

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