People who have served in the military have an unwritten faithfulness to each other, a loyalty that seldom exists elsewhere. Fill a room with 100 servicepeople and there will quickly be unprompted conversations and laughter from a group of complete strangers.
But leaving the forces can also be difficult and many veterans may struggle to adapt to civvy street. To help combat loneliness and promote commandership, a new two-year project has been launched by the Military Community Veterans Centre in Rotherham.
The project, called Hidden Faces, will seek to identify vulnerable veterans in South Yorkshire who may be struggling to engage with others or don’t want to shout about how they are feeling, bringing them together in a friendly and welcoming setting.
This may be a trip to the coast for fish and chips, visiting local attractions, online quizzes, or chats and presentations about a range of topics. There are no expectations, with veterans encouraged to participate in whatever they are comfortable. But the main goal is to improve the sense of belonging in the community.
The project is run by Cheryl Jones, a veteran who served in the army for 22 years. After leaving school, she became a seamstress before joining the Women’s Royal Army Corps in 1988 aged 20. This was disbanded a few years later and she transferred to the Royal Logistics Corp, undertaking tours of Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. She retired in 2010 with a long service and good conduct medal.
After her time in the army, Cheryl started a pet sitting service which she ran for ten years until the Covid-19 thwarted the business. Throughout the pandemic, she has dedicated her time to helping those shielding and isolating. She is also the first female chairwoman of Brinsworth Parish Council.
With 59,000 veterans in South Yorkshire and approximately 8,000 in Rotherham, Cheryl is keen to engage with as many as possible. The organisation currently supports around 150 veterans, but it is estimated another 600 people are in the at-risk category. You can refer friends or loved ones to MCVC if you are worried about them.
To find out more about Rotherham Military Community Veterans Centre and what they do, visit www.rotherhammcvc.org.uk