Help for Heroes reunites two veterans

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Two veterans who met while undergoing officer training at Sandhurst have found themselves working together again years later for the charity Help for Heroes.

Mo Usman, a former member of Pudsey-based 4 Parachute Regiment, and Lawrence Mannion, both 52, joined the Royal Pioneer Corps and began their military careers in the mid-1980s. While life then took them in different directions, they remained in touch through the years.

After 24 years in the Army, Mo, who also studied an MA in International Relations at Leeds University in 2005, became the Centre Manager for the Help for Heroes Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick, North Yorkshire, which provides support for wounded, injured and sick service personnel, veterans and their families.

Mo quickly realised that Lawrence, who served eight years in the Army, would be the perfect candidate for Support Programme Coordinator and he joined Phoenix House in February, 2012. A year later, he became the Support Hub Manager, a vital role making sure that veterans and families receive all the help they need from psychological support to housing, finances and leisure.

For Mo, working for Help for Heroes is the ideal position, following his long military career.

He said: “My greatest enjoyment is the continued realisation that you can do a lot for those who are wounded, injured and long-term sick, including veterans and their families that’s perhaps just not conceivable in the general mind. Very close to that is an absolute passion for forming highly functional and professional teams to deliver what is enormously rewarding work.”

Mo joined the Army when he was 24-years-old after becoming interested in the military through the Air Cadets. He credits his experience with the Army Training Corps for giving him the skills to achieve such success with the Pioneers.

He went to Sandhurst in 1986, sponsored by the Pioneers. His career saw several tours to Northern Ireland and Iraq and postings to Germany as a troop commander in 8 Transport Regiment, Malaysia and to Georgia as Chief Operating Officer for a UN Mission.

His last posting was to HQ 6 Division in York, where he was involved in training Operational Brigades deploying to Helmand Province. He left in June 2010 as a Lieutenant Colonel to set up a small luxury hotel, The Burgoyne in Swaledale, North Yorkshire, with his wife Julia.

At the same time, he was appointed as project officer to set up an interim Personnel Recovery Centre as part of the Defence Recovery Capability for the MOD, employed on full-time reserve service.

He was then selected by Help for Heroes to take on the project for them as Centre Manager. He worked pro bono for the charity until being officially appointed in April, 2012.

Mo said he has worked hard to build a strong team at Phoenix House and knew his former colleague Lawrence would be a huge asset to the Centre.

He said: “At Sandhurst, Lawrence and I got on a straight away. He was very supportive of me and I’m not sure if he thought I was a foreign officer and needed help, or if he was just thoughtful and approachable!

“I think it’s great we are working together again. We are different in character but we have values that are very similar in nature.”

For Lawrence, working with Mo again is both “strange” and “rewarding.”

“It’s funny how life works out,” he said. “Phoenix House is very hands-on and it’s a vibrant work environment.

“We are here to support all veterans who are wounded, injured or sick and it’s about getting that message out there to as many organisations and veterans as possible so we can grow that role and develop that.

“The challenge of the job includes looking at how we approach different services and how all the organisations serving veterans work together or at least collaborate”

Lawrence joined the Army when he was 19, beginning with the Intelligence Corps as a soldier. In 1986, he applied for his commission and went to Sandhurst for officer training, where he met Mo.

He said: “I remember he was very studious, diligent and reliable. Both of us then applied to the Royal Pioneers Corps. I was interested in logistics type corps and the Pioneers came top as it had an infantry and logistics role.”

His first posting was with 518 company, where he worked with a platoon in Gibraltar as well as serving in Northern Ireland. Lawrence was then posted to the First Armoured Division and Signal Regiment in Verden as a defence platoon commander. Lawrence left the Army in 1990 as a lieutenant.

He now lives in Reeth with wife Hilde, trained as a teacher and became principle of Lindeth College in Windermere.

He led visually impaired holidays for a number of years before joining the Phoenix House team.

For Mo, it’s all about building a good team to support the wounded, injured and sick.

“Our collective role,” Mo said, “is to inspire, enable and support those in need – it is not to change the world but to help and support those whose world has changed.”

The Help for Heroes Colossal Cake Sale campaign runs nationally from April 19-May 5. See www.colossalcakesale.org for more details.

Anyone who served in the Army, Royal Navy, Royal Marines or Royal Air Force who needs the support of Help for Heroes Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick can self-refer by calling 01748 834148.

Date: 24th April 2017.
Picture James Hardisty.
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