Earlier this week we caught up with one of our members who attended two of our previous archaeological projects.  Here he tells his story of working with Soldier On!

“Two years ago, I was informed by my chain of command that I was to be medically discharged from the army as an Early Service Leaver.  After the initial shock, disappointment and fear of having to leave the vocation that I had dreamed of all my life,  I fell back onto the other pathway I had considered, becoming an archaeologist.  I applied to for a place at a university and was accepted.

As part of my resettlement, I was sent on two placements to get a taste of archaeology before taking up my university place.  One of the placements I was put on was one of the worst experiences I could have imagined and I was shocked at the unprofessionalism and behaviour.  It was so serious that I found my health and safety being put at risk and I suffered bullying during my time there.  The experience made me seriously re-evaluate if archaeology was for me and I suffered a major mood dip.

However, shortly afterwards, I was sent on the second placement with the Soldier On! charity.  The experience I had with them was the polar opposite to my first placement.  I was made to feel so much at home, they, especially Diarmaid, could not do enough for me, my medical condition was superbly catered for and I made some amazing friends.  In addition, the training I received on-site was first class and gave me a very firm foundation for my first year at University.  What I was so impressed with was afterwards Diarmaid kept in contact and without him and the charity I don’t think I would have passed my first year at university.  When I had issues with my assignments, they helped me to over the phone and in person, giving me invaluable support.

Subsequently, when I was having major financial issues and trouble with my accommodation at university, they arranged more help from SSAFA as well as Diarmaid personally doing a food shop when I had not eaten for three days.  The charity also arranged free transport, accommodation and feeding when they invited me to a second project they ran which helped to improve my morale and well-being.

Its comforting to know that there is an organisation that not only cares but afterwards ensures you have somebody to encourage, support and listen to you.  They also put me on the road to becoming an archaeologist and so providing a future that two years ago I thought looked very bleak indeed.  I passed year one and am now firmly into year two!”