‘Lifesaving’ veterans charity holds Christmas party in glorious sunshine at Fort Cumberland

A PORTSMOUTH charity veterans credit with ‘saving their lives’ hosted a Christmas party today.note-0

Saturday, 5th June 2021, 5:46 pm
Updated Sunday, 6th June 2021, 8:40 am
Pictured is: Mrs Joy Maddox, Lady Mayoress, Lord Mayor Councillor Frank Jonas and Gary Weaving, CEO, Forgotten Veterans charity. Picture: Keith Woodland (050621-7)

Held at the charity’s base at Fort Cumberland in Eastney, Forgotten Veterans UK welcomed the new Lord Mayor of Portsmouth to the festivities.

The charity decided to host a Christmas party in June as many of the veterans had a difficult or lonely time over the festival period.

Gary Weaver, the chief executive of Forgotten Veterans, said: ‘We’re bringing Christmas back just for one day - they’ve had stockings, donuts and chocolate for breakfast, we’ll have a roast dinner and games.’

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Pictured is: Jamie Gregory, Jason Barnett, Vernon Harris, Thomas Laurie Picture: Keith Woodland (050621-10)

The table was set with crackers and decorations, with a Christmas tree also on display.

Around 20 veterans were joined by eight volunteers for the Christmas meal, which was followed by a visit from Father Christmas.

Laura Mehan, a volunteer on placement from university, is studying psychology and is hoping to go on to train in medicine.

Pictured is: Lord Mayor, Councillor Frank Jonas chats with James Ross and Steven Turley. Picture: Keith Woodland (050621-9)

She said: ‘The difference is that in the NHS you’d be medicated or have a max period of CBT.

‘These people’s whole lives have been based around a community, and the NHS can’t help you with that the way Forgotten Veterans can - they give back that sense of community.’

Portsmouth’s Lord Mayor, Cllr Frank Jonas, and his sister Joy Maddox, the mayoress, also joined in the fun.

The Lord Mayor said: ‘I remember when Gary first proposed this, and it raised a few eyebrows - but he has done it!

Pictured is: Lord and Land Lady Mayoress sit down for their Christmas meal with some of the veterans and volunteers. Picture: Keith Woodland (050621-16)

‘Taking over these derelict buildings, he’s provided something unique. People can come in and it's like this huge release.

‘I wish him every success, he does so much. It is an honour to be here.’

Forgotten Veterans is a charity which commemorates, celebrates and assists the service veteran community and supports the armed services.

Warren Avery, a veteran supported by the charity, said: ‘I had a tough upbringing, joined the army, thought I’d have more support from family.

‘I was on the streets for seven years, and I needed help. Gary brought me up here for a detox.

‘Now I’m pretty much at the end of my recovery. I’ve been clean since 2019 thanks to Forgotten Veterans’ support.’

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Thomas Laurie, an ex-paratrooper, said: ‘I went to war when I was 21. Three years ago these guys saved my life.

‘I got arrested, tried to take my life.

‘These guys come and get you - they have a reaction force. They pack your bags and look after you. It’s really good, I think it’s the only charity that does this.

Claire Brown, a veteran who was in the RAF for 12 years, is taking part in the charity’s camp out event this week.

She said: ‘I can’t promote this enough. It saved my life.

‘I was one of the first people to come here. It feels like going home.’

Alex Kelley, a Royal Signals veteran, got in touch with the charity following a breakdown.

He said: ‘If it wasn’t for this place, I wouldn’t be here today.

‘This is my happy place. It’s a lifesaver.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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