Saturday 26th June is Armed Forces day, a chance to show your support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community: from currently serving troops to Service families, veterans and cadets.
This week we meet with Justin, Community Engagement Officer at Blackpool FC Community Trust and ex military, who currently supports our Armed Forces activities. He highlighted how the sessions are more than just football. This is what Justin had to say:
“At the start of Summer, I was contacted by a former soldier who enquired about the ‘Forces Football’ session run by Blackpool Football Club Community Trust (BFCCT). Various posts had been published on social media and the response was great! The former soldier was a lad named Callum (Sandy) Sanderson who is only just in his twenties.
Blackpool born and bred, Callum had joined the Queens Royal Hussars Tank Regiment and was based for a time in the south of England. Sadly, his career was cut short due to a shoulder injury which prevented him from continuing to work within his role.
Having only just left the forces, Callum returned to his hometown of Blackpool and got in touch with Blackpool FC Community Trust. I spoke with Callum on the phone and quickly realised that he did not have many military friends or support in the area. He was currently out of work and looking to get himself back on his feet as quickly as possible. I invited him down to Forces Football and introduced him to all the lads. After a couple of sessions, we all began to bond, and the military banter soon started. Callum is now a regular at Forces Football and veterans are on hand to help with advice and support. The one thing that we all have in common is that we have all left the military and all, at some stage, have been in Callum’s boots.
Recently whilst participating in a track racing event at Wigan, provided by the charity Mission Motorsport, we were made aware that Callum was still out of work. It was then when the team came together to help him out – off the pitch.
Forces Football’s longest serving player Gary Edwards was able to offer Callum employment at his company Lateo. Gary served in the Royal Artillery and completed five operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. He now runs Lateo Risk, a security consultancy and is a keen supporter of ex-serviceman. Over 20% of employees are veterans. Along with Lateo Risk Gary and yet another Forces Footballer Jason Elmsley opened Lateo in South Shore. On the first Sunday of every month, they hold a veterans coffee morning. BFCCT volunteer Marianna Mitchell is always in attendance to help provide support and advice to former service personnel. Marianna’s daughter also works for Lateo providing a vital link between military and civilian life. Forces Football is much more than a kick around on a Thursday and so far, has had such a positive impact on veterans who attend. Fitness in body helps fitness in minds!
Callum now has the support of his new veteran family, a social and physical activity weekly with Forces Football and has gained employment!”
It was great to hear that the Forces Football sessions are having such a positive impact on our Armed Forces Community.
Blackpool FC Community Trust also hold Veterans Coffee Mornings, which are currently taking place virtually via Zoom. There is also the opportunity to join the gardening group who go and maintain the gardens and memorial plaques at the Arboretum in Bispham.