Thousands of miniature wounded veteran figures are coming to Middlesbrough as part of a Help for Heroes campaign to highlight the battle faced by men and women forced to leave the military due to physical and psychological injuries.
The charity has created a striking installation called ‘40,000 Strong’ to help show the true scale of those who have put their lives on the line, which will be on display at the Dundas Shopping Centre on Friday, March 20, and Saturday, March 21.
The installation has been touring the UK and its visit to Middlesbrough will be the last chance to see it in the North.
Over the last 20 years, almost 40,000 people have had to leave the British Armed Forces due to illness and injury.
Army veteran Paul Cappleman, 56, was medically discharged in 2013 – he is now studying for a Fine Art degree at Teesside University’s MIMA School of Art & Design to help him cope with the pressures of civilian life and is using his work to provide support to fellow ex-service personnel.
Paul spent more than 23 years serving with the Royal Signals but has struggled with depression and a range of medical issues, including damage to his spine and a shoulder injury.
He was supported by Help for Heroes and started volunteering in the art room at its northern recovery centre, Phoenix House in Catterick Garrison. This led to him designing a piece of land art for the charity in the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire and a statue which was presented by HRH Prince Charles to Help for Heroes’ players’ player at the Mey Highland Games last year.
He said: “I only really took up art four years ago but it has given me so many new opportunities. Since Help for Heroes’ centre opened in Catterick it’s been there to support me in all my medical and employment needs but it’s also been there for my wife too.”
Rob Colgrave, North-East Area Fundraising Manager at Help for Heroes, said: “Injuries have ended 40,000 military careers in 20 years and every day this number grows.
“Many of them tell us that their transition impacted significantly on their health, wellbeing and family.
“The medical discharge process is seriously failing those who are let down by major inconsistencies in support, so we’re calling on the Government to commission an independent review of the process to close those gaps.
“With the public’s support, we’re on a mission to ensure every wounded hero has the best opportunity to stand strong in civilian life.”
The ‘40,000 Strong’ event will be held in the Dundas Shopping Centre from 10am to 4pm on Friday, March 20, and Saturday, March 21. Visitors can donate in exchange for a special edition boxed figure from the 40,000 Strong installation. There will also be an opportunity to meet Help for Heroes’ staff on Friday, March 20.q