Chris Parrott – ABF The Soldiers' Charity

ABF The Soldiers’ Charity is the British Army’s National Charity, helping soldiers, veterans and families from every conflict. Established in 1944, their purpose was to ensure that the hardships endured by soldiers in the aftermath of 1914-18 were never repeated. Over the last 71 years, they have helped countless people from the Army family, defining their work through the Army’s own values of courage, loyalty and selflessness.

One such example is that of Chris Parrott, 25, a former soldier from Derbyshire who was injured twice on two separate tours of Afghanistan. He was just 18 when he was first deployed with 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment in 2007. A bullet shattered his leg in a battle that claimed the lives of two comrades and injured 16 other soldiers. After being evacuated back to the UK and undergoing rehabilitation at Headley Court, he was deemed fit for active service and went on a second tour in 2009.

Chris’s second injury occurred when fragments of a grenade entered his head through a gap between his helmet and glasses. Chris was fully conscious during the aftermath and recalls “I remember blood dripping down my face and all I could think was not ******* again”. Back in the UK doctors told Chris that he needed a high-risk operation that he might not survive. Chris says “I told my parents that if the op goes wrong then I don’t want to live, I don’t want to be a vegetable”. Fortunately the operation was a success but one lasting effect of the injury was Chris’s diagnosis with epilepsy. As a result he was medically discharged from the Army in 2011.

Prior to leaving the Army, Chris went on a course to help identify job options in civilian life. He visited a home where disabled residents were doing gardening; he spent a few days helping them out and decided that this was a career path he’d like to pursue. “I enjoy being outdoors so didn’t want a desk job. Even though disabled, the guys were doing hard landscaping which I thought was amazing”. Chris therefore applied to do a two-year college course in Horticulture. His studies were enabled by our Quick Reaction Fund, which covered essential costs including clothing, safety equipment and travel. The course gave Chris practical experience in the many different aspects of landscape gardening. Despite missing the camaraderie of the Army, Chris told us, “It was a good course and The Soldiers’ Charity helped me out massively through this funding; they sorted out everything from the kit to the bus fare. Now I’ve finished the course I hope to get a job so I can carry on doing something that I’ve started to love”.

Chris was an integral part of the landscaping team that built the Charity’s ‘No Man’s Land’ garden at the 2014 Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show. Prior to the build, he worked closely with the nurseries, the garden designer Charlotte, and the horticultural therapist at Headley Court to learn about the plants that were used on the garden, and to see how fellow soldiers, currently going through rehab, were benefitting from the charity funded therapist. He even joined the designer for a trip to the Somme battlefields; a place that served as the inspiration for what the garden was created to commemorate. He says “Going to the Somme was an incredibly moving experience; I couldn’t comprehend the fact that 20,000 soldiers were killed on the first day of battle. Today, the countryside is lush and green with wildflowers growing amongst the bomb craters. Even though I’ve seen my own share of bloodshed and battle, it makes it hard to imagine such devastation.” This was an invaluable learning process for Chris and the new experience and skills he gained provided a vital boost to his CV.

Chris reflected on his Chelsea Flower Show experience, and says it helped him to understand the importance of charitable organisations such as The Soldiers’ Charity that are dedicated to the welfare and support of soldiers today: “When you leave the Army, you have to adjust to a whole new way of life. In a way, it’s kind of like a no man’s land, as I know I felt a bit lost and quite alone. But I soon found my way, thanks to the support of my family and The Soldiers’ Charity”.

Supporting ABF The Soldiers' Charity ensures that men and women like Chris, and their families, continue to receive the support, education and training they deserve.

www.soldierscharity.org

ABF The Soldiers' Charity is a registered charity in England and Wales (1146420) and in Scotland (SCO39189). Registered as a company limited by guarantee in England and Wales (07974609). Registered Office: Mountbarrow House, 6-20 Elizabeth Street, London, SW1W 9RB
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