AS a rainbow gleams behind him, former soldier turned forces champion Gary Weaving knows the future is bright.
For the past two years he has been transforming the lives of suicidal veterans from across Britain, after setting up his charity, Forgotten Veterans UK.
Based inside Fort Cumberland, in Eastney, Gary and his team of trusty volunteers have been providing a safe space for veterans in crisis since February.
And now, as the charity approaches the first anniversary of opening its support camp in the Grade-I listed heritage site, Gary has received welcome news key grant money has been secured.
Exactly how much has been is a secret – for now.
But Gary insists it will be enough to move the charity in a bold new direction, creating new facilities to help his fellow comrades.
‘Now we have received some funding, we can focus on making this bigger, better and more professional instead of worrying about finding our rent every month – that’s a massive difference for us,’ says former Royal Engineer Gary, who previously attempted suicide on two occasions prior to founding Forgotten Veterans UK.
Located inside former military barracks at Fort Cumberland, the charity HQ is a hub for the veteran community.
Plenty of work has gone into overhauling the ageing interior of the military barracks to create a homely space.
Inside, the charity has an office, kitchen, dining hall and rooms where visitors can unwind on leather sofas.
Outside, there is a secure area where regular ‘basha’ retreats are held – camping events to help veterans.
Plans are afoot to create a new ‘veteran’s shed’ and indoor billet to allow visitors to sleep overnight.
But what remains core to Gary and his team is the peer-to-peer support provided to military comrades in crisis.
The ‘buddy scheme’ has more than 500 people registered so far, with 110 new cases in this year alone.
It’s a system that has already saved lives.
Among them is former sniper Kevin Allum. The 60-year-old has been battling with PTSD since his friend was killed next to him during a tour in Northern Ireland.
‘He died in my arms,’ says Kevin, who was serving with 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment.
‘I was ordered to leave him and told a quick reaction force would be sent out to recover him.
‘I would never leave a man behind so I went against orders and carried him home.
‘I now live with the memory and think to myself what I could have done differently.’
It was a nightmare Kevin continued to relieve while he struggled with life as a civilian.
He tried to kill himself five times in a six-year period before finding Forgotten Veterans UK.
Now he has turned his life around and is helping others to do the same – a role which he admits gives him a purpose to live.
‘On Monday I’m moving 120 miles down from Watford to Portsmouth to be near the camp that I dearly love and to be with my brothers who have saved me so many times. I now want to save others.
‘If we can stop one soldier from killing themselves, that’s what it’s all about.’
Former sailor Maggie Macdonald is among those supported by the charity – and by Kevin.
The 44-year-old, of Gosport, has been left with complex PTSD following her 12-years in the Royal Navy, which saw her deploying to the Gulf as part of Operation Telic – the invasion of Iraq.
However, within 24 hours of reaching out to the charity, she was receiving the help she needed.
‘At my lowest I would thinking to myself “what’s the point of going on?”,’ she says. ‘If it wasn’t for the charity, I would have probably killed myself.
General Lord Richard Dannatt, former head of the British Army, visited the site yesterday after being approached by Gary in Westminster.
‘I’m hugely impressed by what’s been achieved with very little,’ he says, adding he was ‘disappointed’ other ‘major service charities’ hadn’t ‘understood or contributed’ to the effort.
Gary adds he’s determined to do his bit to save Britain’s forgotten heroes.