Portsmouth group Forgotten Veterans calls for support as it looks to host Ukrainian soldiers after meeting with minister

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VETERANS from the frontlines of Ukraine could be supported by a ground-breaking charity based in Portsmouth following a meeting with a minister from the war-torn nation.

Forgotten Veterans UK has been supporting former members of the armed forces since 2018, which saw the launch of a pioneering respite centre at the Fort Cumberland heritage site in Southsea.

The group’s founder, Afghanistan war veteran Gary Weaving, said that the charity had met a Ukrainian minister at a recent event in Westminster, where they developed the idea to support Ukrainian veterans – with an option of them staying in the Fort Cumberland site.

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Gary said: ‘That was one of the things suggested to them straight away. They were very interested – and I would be very interested in this.

Gary Weaving is working on a new project to help the people of Ukraine 
Picture: Habibur RahmanGary Weaving is working on a new project to help the people of Ukraine 
Picture: Habibur Rahman
Gary Weaving is working on a new project to help the people of Ukraine Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘They were very, very inquisitive to know more.

‘It was left with them saying we must get in touch and talk about this more.’

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Now Gary is calling on anyone with connections to veterans, veterans groups, or relevant charities in Ukraine to come forward and help move their plan forward.

The MP for Portsmouth North, Penny Mordaunt, is working to introduce the charity to officials who can help and advise with their plans.

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The MP said: ‘Forgotten Veterans UK have a good model and they want to share their good and effective practice.’

Gary added: ‘If (Ukraine) takes just 15 per cent of what we do, it would be worth every minute of my time.’

Last year, Forgotten Veterans had 4,000 walk-ins and had 73 veterans in crisis stay at its Fort Cumberland site.

The charity’s costs are just £80,000, according to Gary, who said the group was ‘always scrambling’ for funds.

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He said: ‘We don’t have reserves, we don’t put money into ISAs.

‘Every penny goes to the people.’

The army veteran said the charity had seen an increase in veterans struggling with their mental health due to the harrowing scenes that have emerged from the brutal fighting in Ukraine.

And the veteran community was left in a ‘difficult’ place with some former members of the armed services travelling to Ukraine and fighting on the front lines.

He said: ‘This conflict is different because we have veterans going out, running around and doing TikTok videos. Some have gone for Likes – and love.’

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Receiving a lot of love from the group is the city of Portsmouth, which has been praised for the way residents have backed the charity.

Gary said: ‘I have noticed that the city is really getting behind us, because they can see where the money goes.

‘The council and (council leader) Gerald Vernon-Jackson have been great.’

Now the group plans another one of its ‘off-the-wall’ public fundraising stunts.

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Gary said: ‘It’s going to be extreme flower potting. Some guys will spend 24 hours in these flower pots, dressed like an (idiot).

‘Every time someone makes a donation, the lights and music come on and they dance like a fool. They want me there dressed like a slug.’

The Forgotten Veterans fundraiser is planned to take place in Guildhall Square in the coming weeks.

To contact the group about its Ukraine plans, visit forgottenveteransuk.com.