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Soldier, Veteran, Family Man, Drunk and Fate

This is my Story inspired by a conversation I had earlier with another Veteran about drinking and why I started Families4Veterans. I’m not in the slightest bit Religious but I am a very strong believer in fate and that certain things and people are put in your life for a reason, good or bad. Now looking back at all the things talked about it all seems to be falling into place. Thank you to everyone who has made me get off my arse and stop feeling sorry for myself by sending those messages when I needed them most, you know who you all are. I spent just short of 12 years in the RCT and RLC from 1982 till 1994 until I was advised to take phase 3 redundancy, ever since I was a small kid this was my dream to join the Army with no other job ever thought about, even though my Dad I suppose was a little disappointed as I wasn’t joining the RAF like some of my other mates from Queens School Rheine D. I left home at the age of 16 and 3 months and lost my dream job at the age of 28, married with 2 kids in a country that I didn’t really want to be in. Looking back now I realise that this was probably the start of my drinking, although I was a big drinker in my army days. Now living as a civilian and speaking German every day and having very little contact with my old mates, there was little social life so drinking became a daily exercise at home now, this eventually I suppose played a big part in the already unhappy marriage breakdown. When I first met my current wife Tracy, I weighed just under 65kgs compared to now 86kg, giving up the drink was one of the best decisions I ever made, I’m not T-total but would never go back down that path, plus it takes me over 48 hours to recover from a hangover now. I have known Tracy since the age of 10 and being a fellow forces brat we became good friends as I went out with her best mate, shortly afterwards she was posted to JHQ with her dad. Around 6 months later we were due to be posted to Norway but fate had something else planned and the posting was cancelled last minute and my Dad was needed in JHQ. Picking up from where we left off we soon became the best of mates until the end of the 4th year when she was posted back to the UK. The closest we ever came to kissing each other was playing spin the bottle, where we had to go behind the curtain and kiss each other, it never happened and is a bit of a private joke between us both. We found each other again after she contacted me through Friends reunited and after a year long of chatting we both decided it was time to take it further. We ended up returning to Spain, where Tracy came from after various things kept pushing us away from Germany, we lived in Spain for 12 years until the building trade hit a slump and my work which was all cash in hand at the time was reduced down to a 2-day week if I was lucky. This led me to look at working for myself and landed a house extension contract, this all finished on time and within budget but phase 2 sadly never happened. I thought enough was enough and it was time to get out of Spain before something major happened, we talked about moving back to the UK but I always wanted to go to Canada and Tracy Australia. Eventually, all the stress and pressure took its toll and I suffered 2 Heart attacks, 10 days before my 45th birthday. Fate had something else planned for me, for 10 days in Intensive Care I had nothing to do but sleep and think and this is where the concept of WHO-directory was first thought about. with no damage or further treatment needed I was now sitting at home with time on my hands. I started to write down all the ideas on paper, every small detail on how it would work and operate, the pros and the Cons, believe me, it’s all I thought about for 24 hours. I bit the bullet and jumped straight in to a website builder, as it looked easy enough and WIX was one of the cheapest at the time so it couldn’t be too hard, how wrong was I. I asked for Help but After numerous unrealistic quotes and offers, I was about to give up when an ex-bootie who lived in the next village who I never knew existed contacted me and said as a fellow brother in arms he would only charge me for the work but not his time, (the first spark of the Vetnet) with things not going any better job-wise and Tracy doing 60-plus hours a week and only paid for 40 we had to do something before it was 2 late. Out of the blue Tracy received an email with an invite to an old works reunion. while she was there one of her ex-colleagues offered her a job interview and she secured the job which opened the door to the UK for us. Since leaving the UK at the age of 11 and after 38 years of living away, I was now back in Blighty and it felt like home. Now getting more involved with the Veteran community, fate threw Craig Waters my way. Both me, Craig and a few others were heavily involved with the launch of the Veterans People’s Party, so we have witnessed first-hand how some of the Veteran community react to each other. We tried setting up an independent political party ourselves but honestly, I don’t think the heart was in it after the fiasco with the VPP, so we drifted apart each doing our own thing. Around 10 months later Craig messaged me out of the blue and asked if we were still going to go ahead with relaunching Who directory, but this time as a veteran business directory. I sat down with pen and paper again coming up with a new plan but using the same concept behind Who Directory, we just needed a name. While this was all getting put into place I was one of the Admins on a Facebook group called Veterans 4 Veterans, after reading a comment from a Veteran that asked the question, “I thought this group was called Veterans4Veterans and not wives and girlfriends of veterans”, the birth of Families4Veterans-Directory was created. While still trying to find the unique direction for the directory as numerous other veteran business directories already existed. Something emerged one weekend after seeing numerous cries for support in all the Veteran fb groups I was a member of. I noticed that at least 99% of all replies and recommendations to the Cries often only had a name such as ring combat stress, ring RBL or Help4Heroes, NO LINK, NO PHONE NUMBER and the majority only open during office hours. We had found our place to offer support. Over time we have evolved as an organisation having to adapt the website as needed until the Vetnet was Created and another missing jigsaw piece was put into place. There have been numerous times over the past 5 years that I have often thought why do I bother banging my head against the wall time and time again, then boom you receive an email or pm thanking me for what I’m doing and how much its appreciated for saving their lives or how it helped another Veteran. That’s when the fire ignites again and I re look at it and see how it can be made easier, hence the latest update and the launch of Operation Code Red. After some recent meetings with various organisations wanting to get involved with Op Code Red and sharing posts via social media, another person was introduced to me by fate, she came across the Vetnet and rang me up straight away to see how she could get involved, hearing the passion from someone that saw the potential and understood the immediate support that the Vetnet could provide was just like adding fuel to the fire, she is now head of our crisis team being a mental health nurse (Donna’s is another Story), shortly after joining and publishing a poster for her that she could hand in to doctors surgeries after she asked if we had anything like that already in place, she had to ask her boss for permission first. Sadly due to a tragedy, fate had opened another door. The day that Donna approached her boss to ask for permission to hang the posters up, the trust had been hit with an inquest the day before and needed to act fast, after seeing the poster her boss replied with “no this is going further”. Since this meeting both Donna and Craig were invited to attend a prevention of suicide conference and found some interesting facts, the Big one which will be the make or break point for me I think will be the meeting on the 3rd of Oct, where we have been invited to give a presentation about Operation Code Red and how the Vetnet and CSCSA all play a major part of the big picture, all the parts need to work together in order for the engine to reach its maximum potential and we are still missing a few pieces. You might have seen about the Veterans Shield Challenge As well, which was another idea now confirmed to be happening in 2024 also with the latest idea of the skydive event now planned, which came from a Veteran who we had supported previously and who wanted to pay it back so that it helps another veteran, taking us another step closer. If you’ve taken the time to read all this it shows you care and why I’m still here doing it for you, I’m not in it for awards, not for gala dinner’s nor for chasing funding and grants, I do it because its needed. So far I’ve managed to keep it going for the last 5 years out of my own pocket and the few memberships and donations which all helps to keep us above water, so thanks to you who have supported us. As much as I would love to quit my day job one day and do this full time but if it means that I’m fighting and competing with those that have walk-in centres for the same grants and funds, I look at it as, am I making a difference between if a veteran gets a bed for the night or if we direct him where he can find it, its all about connecting the dots and working together under one roof, no egos just plain and easy accessibility for Veterans and their families to get the help they need in the shortest possible time. Stay safe Gaz https://www.families4veterans-directory.com/the-vetnet


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