“When I sing with the choir, everything else in my mind stops. I’m amongst friends who accept me for who I am. I do not feel pain, I do not feel different, I do not look or sound different, I am just Caroline and that is a wonderful feeling.”
The winter months – and the run up to Christmas especially - can be a difficult time and lonely time for many of our wounded veterans, and this year’s pandemic has made things even tougher for many of those we support.
For veteran Caroline Beazley our Help for Heroes Choir, which has been meeting virtually since the start of the first lockdown, has been her “lifeline” this year.
Caroline was shot four times whilst on patrol in Northern Ireland in 1994. Left with a “broken face”, her only form of communication was through a hole in her throat, which she had to cover to make a sound.
“I stepped out onto the road, then ‘crack, crack’ - just like fireworks exploding. The next thing I remember is lying face down on the street, opening my eyes and seeing a pool of blood and teeth in front of me.
“A round had shattered my left jaw, ripped through my tongue and destroyed my upper palate and right jaw.
“The first time I looked at myself in the mirror I was unrecognisable. Pins in my chin and forehead, a silver frame connected by nuts and bolts and my teeth wired up like a character out of a James Bond movie. My only form of communication was a hole in my throat which I had to cover to make a sound.”
Eventually, doctors managed to piece together her mouth and tongue, but to this day Caroline has insecurities about the way she looks. Knowing that she loved to sing, she’d previously considered joining her local choir before but heartbreakingly, and in her own words, “feared what people would think.”
But when Caroline joined our Help for Heroes Choir, she says she instantly felt at home.
“As soon as I walked into the rehearsal it felt like I had been wrapped in an enormous comfort blanket. There were no second glances, no awkward questions, just acceptance. It was so lovely. Like I had come home, like I belonged again.”
“When I sing with the choir, everything else in my mind stops. My soul is calm. I’m amongst friends who accept me for who I am. I do not feel pain, I do not feel different, I do not look or sound different, I am just Caroline and that is a wonderful feeling.”
Since March, the choir has been meeting virtually and for Caroline, they’ve been a lifeline.
“When the pandemic hit, the first couple of weeks were very unsettling, and my anxiety increased. My complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) makes me hyper vigilant; I could feel myself getting worried about the ‘hidden enemy’ - Covid 19’. I was told to self-isolate for 12 weeks for medical reasons and put on furlough.
“Then the second lockdown came, which has been particularly hard. I was furloughed again, told to isolate again and my son went off to university. It felt like I was truly alone, totally isolated. I disappeared back into my shell and could feel the dark clouds approaching.
“The calls from choir members and rehearsals keep me going through it.
“Through these lockdowns I feel I have become closer to everyone in the choir. The virtual nature of the rehearsals has allowed them into my home, into the inner circle of my life. I’ve had the opportunity, confidence and trust to share things with them, that perhaps I wouldn’t have done for quite some time. There has been a feeling of being closer, emotionally, and mentally.
“It’s made me realise how much Help for Heroes’ support meant to me and how the choir has become my second family. They have been a lifeline to me during lockdown; giving me the strength to get through these challenging times.”
As a special thank you for your support and encouragement over the last year, Caroline and 27 of her fellow Choir members have recorded this very special rendition of Silent Night.
As you watch and listen, we hope you’ll feel proud of the heroes before you. And we also hope you’ll feel proud of the part you’ve played in helping them to find their voice, new friends and renewed hope for the future. Thank you.
Together, we can keep our promise to be here for wounded veterans and their families