AN army veteran from Ammanford has encouraged anyone struggling with life at the current time to do what they can to stay active to improve their physical and mental health.

Martin Slee, 48, served with the Royal Corps of Transport and Royal Logistics Corps from 1992 to 2005. A knee injury sustained while playing rugby for his regiment in 1994 caused ongoing challenges for Martin, and in 2018 he underwent surgery to rebuild the knee. He still suffers from limited mobility and severe pain because of the injury and has been supported by Armed Forces charity Help for Heroes in his recovery.

Martin says, “Before lockdown happened, I really benefited from going along to the Community Recovery Hubs at Carmarthen Leisure Centre once a month. Getting together with other veterans and doing some gentle exercise helped with my physical and mental wellbeing.

“I met my Help for Heroes Case Manager there.  She helped organise some welfare support for myself and my family with SSAFA, and Help for Heroes grant-funded me a recumbent bike, which is easier for me to use with my injury than a static bike would be.

“Although the hubs can’t take place at the moment, I know my Case Manager is just a phone call away if there’s anything I need support with, in the meantime.”

Case Manager Amanda Thomas supports men and women across South West Wales in her role at the charity.  Coming from an Armed Forces family herself, Amanda is familiar with the challenges many veterans face transitioning into life after leaving the military. “Adapting to Civvy Street can be confusing and frustrating for some ex-service personnel,” she says.

“They may have physical or mental health obstacles to overcome as a result of their injuries, and it’s really satisfying being able to help them live their lives with purpose again, by signposting the support that’s on offer. We can  help them navigate the health system by working with our Veteran’s Clinical Liaison Nurse, grant-fund equipment they need for their home, and refer them to Help for Heroes’ Hidden Wounds service for psychological support if it’s needed.”

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Due to social distancing, Amanda is currently delivering consultations with her clients via phone and video calls, and she encourages anyone who has served and thinks they or their loved one may need support, to get in touch.

“It’s a difficult time for so many people, and the Armed Forces community is no different.  There are so many ways we can help, often after they’ve made that initial contact, they are overwhelmed with all the support they can access through the charity,” Amanda says.

As well as cycling up to 15 miles at a time using his recumbent bike, Martin says he enjoys gentle exercise by walking his dog Barney, a cocker spaniel he has had for 3 years. “Before Barney came along, I needed to use two sticks to walk. Taking him on walks gets me out of the house every day and really helps my wellbeing.”

Martin is encouraging anyone who wants to support Help for Heroes to sign up to their latest event Step2It, a socially distanced fundraising event that everyone can take part in for 30 days, setting their own target and logging their daily distance online. He says, “Help for Heroes has done so much for me and my family, and it would be great to see people sign up to Step2It, raise some much-needed funds, and get fit in the process.”

Martin and his daughter Amy attended an event for Help for Heroes at Parc Y Scarlets last year to raise awareness of the number of military personnel who have been medically discharged from the Armed Forces due to illness and injury

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