When former front-line medic John Pearcey joined the Army at the age of 18 his sole focus was to be a life-long soldier.
But when a knee injury caused veteran of the war in Iraq to leave the Armed Forces just six years on, his world came crumbling down around him as he struggled to adapt to everyday life back in a non-military setting.
The dad-of-two, of Laughton Common, near Dinnington, Rotherham, quickly became lost, anxious and isolated – unable to leave the house and face a world that seemed alien to him.
John was suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, which not only had a major impact on his own life, but also on that of his partner Anna, who tried desperately to support her husband while taking care of their two young children, Ethan, seven, and Sienna-Daisy, three.
Thankfully, at one of their low points, a Poppy Break, funded through the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal, gave the couple the respite they needed to refuel and carry on.
“I can’t put into words how great the Poppy Break was,” said Anna, aged 33.
“It really helped us to glue our family back together and I’m so grateful for that.”
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The family were sent on a one-week Poppy Break to Alderson House in Bridlington, where they could escape their daily struggle and enjoy being a family in a safe environment.
Anna said: “John felt secure as he was surrounded by fellow service men and we enjoyed activities as a couple and a family, which we hadn’t done for ages.”
John, aged 27, who served as a medic with the Army’s Rifles Regiment, completed two tours of Iraq before he left the forces in May 2011.
Since seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder from the charity Combat Stress, John has taken positive steps forwards, but Anna says the road to recovery is long.
She said: “John lost one of his good friends during one of the tours and as a front-line medic saw some very unpleasant things.
“Life is still difficult for us but there is no doubt the Poppy Break and continued support we receive has helped.
“I’ve volunteered as a poppy seller myself this year as I feel so passionately about the cause and want to make a difference to lives of another family, as others have helped to make a difference to ours.
“As well as world war veterans there are many young people that have returned from conflict, or that are currently in it, that need support too.”
Money raised by the Poppy Appeal helps veterans with a range of problems they may face, including helping them manage debts, advising them on compensation claims and offering family holidays.