Army veteran on 'essential' help for ex-military as Poppy Appeal launches

The Taunton branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL) has launched its Poppy Appeal for the first time in three years.

On Saturday 22 October, charity members, volunteers, military personnel and veterans gathered for the launch in the town centre.

The event started with a procession from members of the RBL Riders branch. The Mayor of Taunton greeted the bikers by a display of historic military vehicles and World War Two hospital memorabilia.

Army veteran Luis Martelo played The Last Post which was followed by a minute's silence as the period of Remembrance begins nationwide.

Army veteran Luis Martelo played The Last Post Credit: ITV West Country

When Mr Martelo left the army seven years ago, he became homeless for three years as he 'really struggled' to reintegrate into society.

Now, looking back, he understands just how important the work of the RBL is.

Mr Martelo: "Mentally it is really hard when you leave the army, because you are used to a routine and structure. When you get out, it is totally different.

"So it is really important to have support and to have help, from everywhere. The Royal British Legion is essential with that."

The organiser of Taunton's Poppy Appeal, Martin Hughes, is thrilled the appeal is back in full. He said: "Due to the pandemic, fundraising had to be scaled back hugely. But the charity needs resources now more than ever.

"At the moment, the RBL spends about £1.6million a week on the care of armed forces personnel. Whether it's to help with rent, finding somewhere to live, psychological problems or PTSD.

"There are a lot of veterans who need the help of the RBL. So the 2022 Appeal will focus on how your poppy is helping the charity continue its vital work."

The Poppy Appeal is a vital fundraising period for the Royal British Legion. Credit: ITV West Country

Ahead of the official launch in Taunton, the pop-up poppy shop opened on October 15. The shop, on Fore Street, is run by volunteers and will be open until November 12.

So far, more than £2,300 has been raised and over the next three weeks, many volunteers will be out in the town centre with buckets.

Nathan Hartnell, who is volunteering and a Royal Marine Cadet, said: "We're all part of the same family. So it's only right to offer help to the RBL, give up our time and give a little bit back."

The Poppy Appeal in Taunton is just one of hundreds around the country hoping to raise vital funds for the RBLI. The charity will use the donations to continue supporting servicemen and women, veterans and their families.