When Wayne Harrod met The Poppy Factory patron the Duchess of Cornwall at a celebration event he was able to tell her how the charity turned his life around.
For the veterans’ charity has helped the former Royal Anglians colour sergeant’s get into a job he thoroughly enjoys.
The charity had set itself the target of helping 500 veterans into work in five years and the celebration at Admiralty House was to mark that achievement and thank all those involved.
Wayne, who lived in Bury St Edmunds until he moved to Isleham in 2014, was there as one of the people ithelped.
He enjoyed meeting the duchess and said: “She’s lovely – she’s so easy to talk to, and she’s so passionate about the cause.”
The charity began as a factory employing veterans to make the poppies for the annual remembrance collection. It still does that but also uses its expertise to help ex-service people find new careers on civvy street, using staff and volunteer mentors.
The charity says adjusting to civilian life can be difficult and is tougher still for people with physical or mental health challenges. Wayne had to have a leg amputated in 2004 after someone reversed a 10.5 tonne Spartan tracked reconnaissance vehicle over it.
Wayne stayed in the Army until 2011 and admits he struggled to find a new career.
He added: “Most soldiers don’t want to admit to it. We think we can handle it.
“During my darkest moments a friend phoned up and I said I needed help.”
The friend suggested the Poppy Factory who worked with Wayne on his CV and looked at areas he liked working in. Their mentor suggested the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and though Wayne’s first application was unsuccessful, because he had no horticultural qualification, he was given the opportunity to work with them as he studied.
The Poppy Factory, with Help for Heroes and Walking With the Wounded funded him through college so he now has a Royal Horticultural Society Level Two Diploma. Based at Cambridge City Cemetary he has also care for war graves in and around Bury.
“The diploma opens a whole lot of avenues to me inside the War Graves Commission,” he said. “I like what they do and can’t see me changing.”
He urges ex-service people having trouble adjusting: “Make that call for help and get your life back on track.”