Connecting old and young
By Lorraine George,
Last month Churchill Fellow Tony Wright (2011) was given a Points of Light award by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The award is in recognition of Tony’s work through the charity he founded, Forward Assist, which works to improve the physical and mental health of veterans. Since being set up in 2009, Forward Assist has helped thousands of veterans across the north-east of England.
In a personal letter to Tony, the Prime Minister said:
"We know that many veterans struggle with the transition to civilian life and so work like yours, which gives meaning and purpose, is so incredibly vital. Our Armed Forces are the pride of our nation and we must all do whatever we can to support those who have selflessly served."
The Points of Light award recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Each day, someone in the country is selected to receive the award to celebrate their remarkable achievements.
“I am delighted to have been nominated for the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award,” said Tony. “In these uncertain times it is always important to remember that military veterans are civilian society's greatest untapped asset and, like everyone else, it is an honour to be of service to others through the groundbreaking work of Forward Assist.”
Tony joined the Royal Marines in 1978 and was medically discharged three years later after seriously injuring his shoulder during training. Following this, he faced a period of homelessness and unemployment before returning to the education system and gaining qualifications as a social worker. His experiences inspired him to support other veterans in adjusting to civilian life, particularly those with PTSD.
This inspired Tony to set up Forward Assist. Its mission is to engage veterans in community projects that make use of their transferable skills, provide them with new employment and education opportunities that also reduce social isolation, and promote their physical and mental wellbeing.
His Fellowship in 2011 took him to the USA to assess resettlement and support services available to ex-service personnel before and after returning to civilian life. He was especially interested in those veterans who experience chronic social exclusion as a result of combat operational stress.
Since returning from his travels, Tony has also been dedicated to campaigning for gender-specific mental health interventions to support women veterans. In 2017 he received a grant of over £180,000 from the Government's Tampon Tax Fund, to identify the nature of social disadvantage facing women veterans during the transition from military service to civilian life.
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