Wigan ex-paratrooper reveals how he bounced back from a heart attack, stroke and homelessness
Ex-Para Anthony Young had given years of service to his country – but found himself destitute and living in woodland within months.
But one year on, the 55-year-old veteran has a roof over his head and a canine companion thanks to the intervention of the Wigan Borough Armed Forces Community HQ.
The service has helped more than 200 members of the armed forces – including Anthony – to integrate back into civilian life by offering housing advice and financial guidance.
It celebrates its one-year anniversary this Remembrance Sunday, and without their help Anthony is certain he would not be alive today.
He said: “I was going through a really bad time following a heart attack and stroke.
“I had worked all my life, been active and never asked anyone for anything. Following a stroke which affected my speech and use of my left arm, for me my life was over.
“I ended up homeless, living in a wood and had basically given up all together.”
Having found him in hospital, staff from the HQ helped furnish Anthony’s new home and even bought him a dog, which has gone on to become a ‘great companion’.
Anthony added: “The support I received has literally saved my life and I will be eternally grateful.
“I wouldn’t be alive today without them.”
Funding for the HQ came from Wigan council, the Ministry of Defence and Wigan Sea Cadets. The building in Wigan, Molyneux House, is named in honour of local serviceman Lieutenant
Commander Ian Molyneux, who was killed aboard his submarine in 2011.
It was unveiled on November 10 last year by Falklands War veteran Simon Weston and Andy Reid, who lost both his legs and his right arm while serving in Afghanistan.
Since then it has become a one-stop facility for the estimated 22,000 men and women who have returned to the borough from service.
Major John Harker, strategic lead for armed forces at Wigan council, said: “We are very pleased with the progress and impact we have made over the last twelve months.
“It’s now time to take stock and plan for a bright future so we can continue to be a shining beacon offering hope and inspiration to those who need us.”
The HQ is managed by two community interest companies – Wigan Borough Armed Forces HQ and Healthier Heroes – and has also provided a home for the Wigan Sea Cadets and the Royal British Legion.
Councillor David Molyneux, leader of Wigan council, believes the HQ is another example of Wigan borough ‘leading the way’ across the region.
The hard work of HQ’s staff also earned the local authority a silver employee recognition award from the MoD acknowledging its commitment to the armed forces community.
“In the last year, we have worked with charities, our partners and the local community to provide bespoke guidance, advice and support to the borough’s armed forces community,” said Coun Molyneux.
“We look forward to continuing working together with our partners to ensure a prosperous future for our veterans and the HQ.”