The third and final group of physically or mentally wounded British military veterans have been enjoying some well-earned rest and recuperation in Majorca this week. Organised by the Not Forgotten Association in association with a very generous British resident on the island and the Majorca Daily Bulletin, this programme has now been going for the past five years and has proved extremely successful and popular with the veterans of various recent conflicts dating back to the Falklands War.
This week, however, was not all about relaxing. It was activity week for a more able-bodied and active group and served to give them all a real change of scenery and get them out of their daily routines back in the UK. Under the guidance of NFA events organiser Rosie Thompson, the lads from the Royal Artillery, Royal Signals, Royal Marines, Royal Anglian, Royal Engineers, two members of Blind Veterans UK and REME have been exploring the island.
They have been hiking, horse riding, water caving, climbing and of course, treated to a gala night at Son Amar courtesy of owner Margaret Whittaker OBE, who for the past few years has invited each of the three groups which come out to the island every year as guests at the spectacular show.
" I had to drag the lads away at the end of the evening; they were busy chatting to the dancers. They all had a great night at Son Amar - the boys said it was the best night of their lives," Rosie said. However, none of these trips would be possible without the great support of the local Majorcan and British community, not least the British resident who throws open her finca in the north of the island to accommodate the veterans and sometimes their partners. On some occasions, the groups include seriously wounded young veterans, victims of the very latest conflicts in Afghanistan. Double amputees, troopers suffering from serious post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or both, extreme wounds from roadside bombs, the list goes on.
But the trouble is that without funding or support from the private sector, these men and women will so easily get forgotten. Just because British forces are not officially involved in a conflict does not mean that there are not tens of thousands of servicemen and women who still need help, and this is where charities like the NFA, which is nearing its centenary are so important. The Princess Royal is the current patron of the association, which is unique because it is a national tri-service charity.
Its motto is "From Comradeship to Challenge" and more often than not many of the servicemen and women who come on the trips have never met before. But within hours they are soon the best of friends and remain so for life because they are back amongst their own; they can share their experiences and talk to people who understand them.
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