‘I’m blown away’ – military veterans rally with wall-to-wall support in Exmouth after storm

A garden wall in Exmouth that fell foul of Storm Eunice helped cement friendships among a group of military veterans.

Help for Heroes’ staff had arranged for Exmouth resident Andy McGlyyn to meet fellow veterans and try a gym session organised by the Armed Forces charity when the storm hit and the keep fit get-together was cancelled in favour of a walk.

When the storm toppled Andy’s garden wall it prompted the former Royal Marine to cancel – leaving him ‘blown away’ when his gym buddies and trainer turned up to help clear the damage.

The 49-year-old, who lives in Exmouth, said: “The guys were unbelievable. I didn’t ask any of them to help me. I put on our group chat that I wouldn’t be able to make our walk because my wall had blown down, and they turned up. What an absolutely amazing group of people.

“I’m so humbled. What should have been a pretty miserable day turned into something really special.

“I know I’ve only been part of the group for a short time, but I feel like they’ve been my friends forever.

“I can’t thank them enough. What’s more Ash, our gym coach, turned up as well. We’re so lucky to have him.”

Exmouth

Andy and Taff.
Photo: Dave Bowers.

Exmouth

The clear-up.
Photo: Dave Bowers.

Exmouth

The clear-up.
Photo: Dave Bowers.

Andy posted in the veterans’ WhatsApp group that he would not be joining them because his garden wall had fallen foul of the gale force winds of Storm Eunice.

The former Royal Marine said he was blown away by the generosity of his new-found friends – former Royal Marines Commando ‘Taff’ Hewitt; Stu McKenzie (former Army Royal Corps of Transport); ‘Poppy’ Pawsley (ex-Royal Marines Band) and Phillips – turned up at Andy’s home.

There, they immediately got stuck into collecting and making good all the bricks, ready for when the bricklayer arrived to rebuild the wall.

Andy said before the pandemic he would not have considered contacting Help for Heroes, but changed his mind on the advice of a fellow veteran who was on the charity’s recovery programme.

He agreed to try the gym session in a bid to ease potential isolation and ‘hasn’t looked back’.

Andy said: “Help for Heroes has been so good for me. The levels of support are way above and beyond what I expected; I’m so glad to be part of it. I just wish I’d come to them for support earlier.

“The way these small groups work, delivered face-to-face in the community, is much more personal than I expected.

“Because the charity is so large, I didn’t imagine how personal and friendly it is. It’s been a massive boost to both my physical and mental health during the last couple of months.”

Exmouth

Ash and Andy.
Photo: Dave Bowers..

wall

Poppy, Ash and Stu in the garden.
Photo: Dave Bowers.

wall

The stricken wall.
Photo: Dave Bowers.

The charity said the regular group gym session, was organised by Hannah Lake, a Help for Heroes sport, activity and fellowship practitioner, and delivered by Phillips.

Hannah said the group was a ‘wonderful example’ of how peer support can create close bonds.

She said: “It was only in January that Andy joined our class at CrossFit Exmouth, yet the group has evolved into an incredibly special friendship and shows what they can achieve. “Ash has done a great job in embedding the guys in the regular sessions.”

She added: “For many veterans just leaving their house can be a major step, let alone meeting new people and starting a new activity.

“Yet, here we are, just a few weeks later, and in typical military fashion, the guys are happy to muck in and work as a team to help one of their own.

“It’s a very heart-warming story and reminds me of why we, as a charity, do what we do.”

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