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'Like my son I wear my poppy with pride'
THE mother of a soldier who was killed in Afghanistan when he was only 21 has given her backing to this year’s Poppy Appeal.
Royal Marine Jason Mackie, from Bampton, was on a tour of duty in the central Asian country in May 2009 when he was killed.
Marine Mackie was commanding an Viking armoured vehicle at the head if a five-strong convoy at Basharah, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province when a huge buried bomb ripped it apart, throwing him 25 metres from the explosion.
He died instantly from blast wounds.
His mother Lee Mackie, who still lives in Bampton said: “It seems almost impossible, but this will be the fourth Remembrance Sunday which has passed since Jason died.
“He, like all the family, was a passionate supporter of the Poppy Appeal and always wore his with pride. Now that he’s gone, wearing a poppy and the sacrifice it represents means even more.”
Mrs Mackie came up with the idea for the memorial bell that now tolls as corteges carry the bodies of fallen servicemen and women pass the memorial garden on the edge of Carterton, after being flown to RAF Brize Norton.
She said the money raised by the Poppy Appeal was vital to help those who come back from the war, alive but sometimes severely injured.
Mrs Mackie said: “I have always been a fervent supporter of the Royal British Legion.
“Both Jason’s great-grandfathers fought in the Second World War and even though they were lucky enough to survive and return home, they passed on many stories of what happened to them in North Africa and Northern France, and of the many who gave their lives for us.
“Poppies are so special and so instantly recognisable, and I think that because of the news and because of repatriations, people are realising even more what they mean and the good they do.
“My son did not return home, but many sons and daughters who are coming back are doing so badly injured and even without limbs.
“And they desperately need the help that the Royal British Legion so expertly provides.
She added: “I see the poppies as a symbol that we must all stop, pause in our busy lives and think about the sacrifices that are being made for us.
“Times are hard for us all, but if we all give what we can spare, we are helping to support service personnel and their families in their utmost time of need, now and in the future.
“And just as my son did, I will wear my poppy with pride.”
The Royal British Legion spent £90m last year on health and welfare for the Armed Forces community – £1.7m every week.
It committed £50m over 10 years to help serving men and women who are wounded, injured or sick through the Battle Back Centre, an adaptive sports facility in Shropshire, and to fund the operating costs of four Personnel Recovery Centres in the UK and a Personnel Recovery Unit in Germany.
It spent £20m last year running its care homes and break centres and helped 18,000 veterans and their families with immediate needs grants and helped more than 11,000 individuals with benefit and money advice, 25 per cent of whom were serving personnel.
Last year its Independent Inquest Advice Service supported 110 bereaved relatives through the coroner’s inquest.
The RBL’s Benefits and Money Advice made its average customer £3,000 better off. Its pioneering Be the Boss scheme has provided nearly 3,000 service leavers with the tools to expand or set up their own business.
It is investing £5m in blast-injury research at Imperial College London to combat the devastating effects of roadside bombs and IEDs.
Other charities offering help include:
- Help for Heroes.
- The British Limbless ex-Servicemen’s Association (BLESMA) supports servicemen and women who lose limbs, the use of limbs or eyes or the sight of an eye in the service of their country. The charity’s work starts with rehabilitation and involves shared experience, life-long welfare support, and campaigning. Jerome Church, general secretary of BLESMA, said: “We have had a long and fruitful relationship with The Royal British Legion for over 80 years. The legion has always worked closely with us and we with them. They have resources we don’t but we have expertise in areas such as prosthetics and the daily business of living with amputation. We are a good team. The Poppy Appeal is at the centre of public life of this country and as ever we will be guests of the British Legion as we march past the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday wearing the poppy that is a symbol of real meaning – for us all” . Tel: 020 8590 1124 or go to blesma.org
- The Army Benevolent Fund provides financial support and practical advice to soldiers, former soldiers and their families in times of need. Tel: 0845 241 4820 or go to soldiers charity.org
- The charity Combat Stress provides a dedicated service for veterans including a 24-hour helpline, a community outreach service and a variety of rehabilitation programmes. Tel: 01372 587 000 or go to combatstress.org
- The Army Families Federation (AFF) is the independent voice of Army families and works hard to improve the quality of life for Army families around the world. The charity is often pivotal in achieving improvements for Army families such as changes to Government and military policy.
- For details of your regional co-ordinator visit aff.org
- The Not Forgotten Association is a unique national tri-service charity which provides entertainment, leisure and recreation for the serving wounded, injured or sick and for ex-service men and women with disabilities. Tel: 0207 730 0020 or go to nfassociation.org