Today started at 06.30hrs when my Wife and I got up, `Pickle` woke a short while after and we woke the other two up to get themselves dressed and fed so that we would be ready for 08.00 to go and collect my Mother in Law from her house and then travel to Taunton. The morning did not go quite as well as we had hoped as it was nearly twenty past eight before we left the bungalow to go to collect her, we made our way towards her house but she had decided to walk towards our place and we met her around half way. This was a Godsend to be honest as it saved us a good ten minutes; we turned around and with her now in the Chucklebus we started to make our way to Taunton. I wanted to be at the church to meet up with my Company rather than have to try to find them inside the church. The church is not so big that it would be hard to see them if they were in there, but I did not want to be rolling in to the church and then have to roll back out if they were not there. Fortunately for me there was one of our recruits outside the church and he could confirm that they had not arrived yet, to that end I waited with him for them to arrive.
I sat talking to our recruit for around ten minutes or so until we saw the guys of the Company marching up the road towards the church, this was great as it meant that they would know I was there, especially as I had been constantly reminding them to get the weekend sorted so as to not miss the Remembrance service. I had been offered the opportunity to travel to London to take part in the ceremony and parade there which I would have loved to have done but wanted to show the guys that I had paraded with them. I did not want them to be able to say, “So we paraded but he was not here”. I don’t think that it would have been said and if it was then it would not have been meant in a detrimental way, it would soon have been corrected that I was in London but I decided to parade at Taunton. The secondary reason for this was because it is the last year that we will be `B` Company 6th Battalion The Rifles as we are being “Removed from the Army Order of Battle” as of April 2014. We will instead become 675 (The Rifles) Squadron Army Air Corps. I also have a medical in February which could be the end of my days in uniform, as such I wanted to parade for the last time as Rifles with my Company.
The parade went well, the church service was very good and once it had finished, my Wife met me outside the church and helped me to Vivary Park which is where the main act of Remembrance takes place. I needed to get there before my Company and hoped that I would be able to fall in with them for the final time as Rifles. After Last Post was sounded and the wreaths had been laid, the parade was dismissed. I met back up with my Wife, kids and Mother in Law and we made our way back to the Chucklebus. With us loaded up we drove to our TA Centre or rather our Army Reserve Centre (ARC) for a bite to eat and to chat. It was great to catch up with the 4 Platoon lads from Exeter who I had not seen for a little while as I am unable to take part in the weekend exercises any more. At around half one, we headed off to Ilminster for the parade there which is something I have done for around 5 or 6 years, and have had Paul and Dobsy join me for the one year less. I also met up with an old school mate who has served his 22 years in the regulars and is due to get out very soon. The service at Ilminster is shorter than the one in Taunton which I would expect but was as packed if you compare the size of the towns. The cadet units turned out in force, as did the Cubs, Scouts, Brownies and Guides which was great to see. After the service Dobsy helped me down to the road while the Last Post and wreath laying went ahead, I wanted to take part in the “March” down through the town to the school which I had missed last year while trying to get out of the church grounds to the road hence I made my way to the road early.
We formed up on the road ready to set off on the parade through the town. It was here that I noticed immediately that there were hardly any veterans in comparison to the previous year. One person I noticed in particular was my Mother’s next door neighbour whom I had known all of my life; I hope that he is well. There were a lot of people who would be taking advantage of the tea and coffee at the school hall and so we decided to make our way to the Stonemasons for our usual annual meal. This year we had an extra though which was really nice, we had the Permanent Staff Instructor from the Army Air Corps join us at the ceremony in Ilminster and then joined our families for our meal. It was nice that he chose to do so as it meant that he could meet our families who have been involved and supportive for some 12 years or more. Whilst we were sitting waiting for our food to be served we were approached by a blonde lady and two gentlemen who asked us to join them in a shot of Port. It turned out that the ladies Brother was part of the 1st Battalion The Rifles and after spending a little time talking with him found out that he knew my Cousins husband as they are in the same Platoon, and he also knew Kev our current PSI from The Rifles as Kev too is 1 Rifles. Small world eh? The ladies Fiancé was part of the Royal Horse Artillery who was just finishing his post operational tour leave after returning from his tour of Afghanistan. They had met at a central point for a meal which turned out to be the Stonemasons. As they had noticed we were in uniform and were Rifles, they wanted us to join them to toast the fallen on Remembrance Sunday which was really thoughtful, so we toasted and drank the Port and then spoke with them for a few minutes until our food arrived.
It was a good laugh as always and is just nice for all of the kids to catch up with each other and have fun. It was a shame this year that Anji was not well enough to join us but I am glad that Dobsy bought his kids to attend the service and to have food with us. I had a nice surprise form Dobsy tonight; a surprise that had a story attached which made the surprise all the more special. Dobsy was asked if he fancied doing a parachute jump with a few of his friends, having consumed some alcohol he agreed as it seemed like a really good idea. In the morning he read his texts and found out that he had agreed to do the said skydive and immediately knew that texting drunk was a very bad idea. Nothing was heard for a few months and he thought that he had got away with it, until one day a text came through asking if he was still up for it. He composed a lengthy text explaining that he was not really up for it and that the alcohol had given him an overdose of Dutch courage and that if it was all the same, he would like to pass up the opportunity. He passed his mobile to his loving Wife and asked her if she would read it to check it did not come across as rude before he sent it. Lovingly she read the text and said that it was fine and so he told her to send it, which she did.
A short while later a text came through saying that the news was great and that some dates would be sent through for them to arrange. Slightly shocked he read the text that had been sent, his loving Wife had changed the text to say that he was essentially “Well up for it” and so it would appear that he was now kind of committed to it. He decided that he would not be doing this for nothing and that he was going to be sponsored to do it. The dates were postponed and then arranged and changed and postponed until one day the time had come for the jump to go ahead. They travelled to the airfield but it was raining, would this be another day that he would escape the jump which he was not looking forward to? They sat the safety brief and the rain had stopped, the instructors got them on to the aircraft pronto and they took off and climbed to the jump height that they had paid for of 8,000ft. Dobsy was the last one to jump and so he watched the others go, and then he was shuffled to the doorway. His jump partner got him outside of the plane and an alarm sounded, they got back in and shut the door to wait to go around again. This happened a couple of times and so the parachutist signalled to the pilot to climb. The one person who was not looking forward to jumping, in fact not wanting to jump at all, was going to jump from 13,500ft!
Dobsy told me that I was completely wrong about the feeling being amazing, he told me that it is not something he wanted to do again especially as he had not wanted to do it in the first place. What he did though was truly humbling. We paid our bills and made our way to the car park where we all said our goodbyes and then Dobsy came over with a tub. The tub contained a sum of money. Despite all of the charities he could have raised money for by falling from the aircraft, any number of places he could have raised money for by getting sponsorship for his accidental skydiving trip, he chose to raise money to help me purchase the Overlander. I am unable to tell you what this meant to me, the fact that he chose to help me is one thing but to approach people and ask them to sponsor him for that purpose is simply humbling. Carol and Doug arranged the dance and raffles some 18 months to two years ago. I did my own skydive just over a year ago and another friend donated £500 to the fund not long after the skydive. All of this has made such a difference, and again is humbling that the people sponsor or purchase tickets for a dance and raffle wanting to help me. Well, now I am able to order the Overlander. I have been awarded funds from Care for Casualties, Just Rifles and the Army Benevolent Fund to assist in the shortfall of the funds required due to my abseil being refused. With the money that Dobsy has raised I am able to now order the `vehicle` which in turn will allow me to attempt other challenges to raise money for charities who have assisted me as part of my Giving Back.
So I want to end this Blog entry by saying a massive Thank you to Dobsy for the donation, for doing something he genuinely did not want to do and for the people who sponsored him knowing that it was to help me. It really does show not just how good some of my friends are but also that people are willing to help. I sometimes wonder if it is because people are reminded of their own mortality. I have decided that I want to try to make a PowerPoint presentation or film about my accident and how it has left me in the hope that I may be able to take it with my Motorcycle (what’s left of it) and my safety gear to educate students in the hope that my situation may help to prevent more people ending up like me simply because they don’t think it is cool to wear the right gear or fasten their crash helmets. It is something I wanted to do nearly two years ago, and despite getting in touch with the road safety partnership who were not interested, I feel that a guy in a wheelchair with his bike and leathers in front of you while talking about the injuries and what I have lost with regards to the Army and my civilian employment, as well as the burden I have been in the early stages of coming home from hospital may be slightly harder hitting than a Motorcycle or Traffic Police Officer who tells of how many accidents he has had to attend and how he does not want to be knocking on the parents door to say that their loved one is dead or very seriously injured.
Thanks again Dobsy, and all those who sponsored him, it means A LOT.