Why would a group of soldiers start a veteran’s charity?
We were all beginning to see coffins being driven through the streets of Royal Wootton Bassett on our TV’s and hearing the families being interviewed about the loss of their loved ones and seeing the outpouring of emotion from those who lined the streets to pay their respects.
This had a profound effect on me and it was the catalyst for me wanting to do something to help those who had returned from war.
Having served during the time of the Falklands War and having many friends who had taken part in the conflict I began to study the aftermath of what had happened since the conflict and was shocked at the statistics. The shock of hearing about PTSD figures, in the early days and the empathy of witnessing those suffering from PTSD and with the understanding that we wanted to put back what we took out.
As former members of the Royal Engineers we were trained in many different skills and had learned that on the many tasks we carried out throughout the world called Military Aid to the Civilian Community or (MACC Tasks) that there was a huge feeling of achievement and well-being when you saw the faces and heard the laughter of those you had carried out the task for.
We knew that by helping others with the skills we had learned that in fact we were also helping ourselves by the sense of achievement we took from completing a task that could change others’ lives.
These were the ideas that we took forward and was the basis on which the charity was formed.
Veterans In Action (VIA) was formed by Billy MacLeod and two former Royal Engineer friends, two of whom had been injured physically and one who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who wanted to help veterans who had been injured both physically and emotionally.
The idea was based, at that time 2008, around our own experiences in the Royal Engineers and to get veterans involved in adventurous activities and expeditions which both challenged them physically and mentally with the onus on how by challenging yourself and helping others could help you overcome any negative thoughts.
Introduction to Veterans In Action
Billy MacLeod (BM) was invited to take part on an expedition which visited another continent an exciting and somewhat dangerous expedition, with many different cases and stages of stress related ………….symptoms. It was on the return journey he began to see the high of completing an expedition disappear which made him think that these type of events as well as therapy come to an end and those taking part can then return home and revert back to how they were before taking part. OR NOT
Charity status was granted to VIA in January 2009 and on receiving this it was down to BM to move things forward on my own as the other two friends had unfortunately decided not to be involved.
During 2009, still mainly on his own, BM attended events spreading the word about the charity’s aims and also attended some courses and trained as a Master Practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Time Line Therapy (TLT) and Hypnotherapy which helped with his own personal development and communication skills.
BM had begun to work with another charity that helped veterans with therapy using NLP, TLT* and Hypnotherapy and there was no doubt that some veterans changed. His concern was though that once a veteran left the safety net of therapy and returned home to the environment that they lived in which in many cases could well be part of the problem that they could revert back to how they were before
This then was a period of study for BM and research into the merits of working in the outdoors and Wilderness Therapy and the studies of Doctor Simon Crisp who developed a programme called Wilderness and Adventure Therapy in Australia which worked with young people using the outdoors as a way of how they felt about themselves.
It was through this period of study that BM began to develop the ALIVE Program based on his training in NLP and the studies into Wilderness Therapy.
It became clear to BM at this time that the therapy that veterans went through was extremely important and that there was always an end point where veterans had to then use what they had learned and returned home.
This was easier said than done as it meant making decisions and taking ownership on what they did within their own environment when in fact the easiest thing to do was to do nothing and continue life as it had previously been before receiving any therapy.
Tomorrow the ALIVE Program and how it became ALIVE.