Veterans supported by Help for Heroes are returning to the front line, alongside thousands of others, to support the NHS in the battle against coronavirus.
Wounded veteran Mark ‘Lofty’ Taylor is serving his country once more, working 12-hour shifts with healthcare facilities provider ISS at London’s NHS Nightingale hospital. Their aim is simple - to try and save those with COVID-19 who are fighting for their lives.
Former WO2 Lofty played a key role in turning London’s Excel exhibition centre into the country’s first Nightingale hospital. Initially turning up as a volunteer, he was drafted in as an Operations Manager, leading a team in the day-to-day running of the hospital.
Lofty said: “I sat down in the first few days of lockdown worrying what I was going to do. I needed to do something and thought there must be something I can do to again help the country.”
When he arrived at the Nightingale hospital for the first time, Lofty was in shock, and is proud of the NHS for how it has dealt with the virus so far.
“It was like the chaos of war. If you imagine trying to mobilise and supply thousands of troops in the battlefield, it takes time.
“It has really surprised me how well the NHS has been able to pull this off, the whole NHS has turned itself on the head.”
Lofty, from London, served in the army for 25 years saw tours of Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Iraq. In 2005, after a decade of active duty which culminated in a tour of Iraq that saw two men in his Battalion, 1 PWRR die, Lofty attempted to commit suicide.
He came back from Iraq a completely different person to the one that went out there. He felt he couldn’t be the solider, father, son and husband he needed to be. It was following that suicide attempt that he was first diagnosed with PTSD.
Despite this, Lofty remained in the army for the next nine years, bottling up his demons and not seeking help for his PTSD. Eventually his wife could no longer cope and filed for divorce. It was at this time that a concerned friend took him to the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre, Tedworth House.
Lofty was discharged from the Army in 2013. With the support of Help for Heroes, he started his own business, Hero Handyman Building Services Ltd, offering a range of refurbishment services to those who need them.
“For the first time in ten years, Help for Heroes helped me hold my hand up and say ‘I need help’. I’ve the closest relationship with my family that I’ve ever had and I found a new partner, Yvonne. The Charity has helped me deal with my PTSD and become a better person from it. That is what drives me to raise awareness and give something back to a fantastic charity that I say ‘saved my life’ but I know now gave me the support and strength to save myself.”
Now back on the front line, Lofty is proud to be serving his country again.
“We are beating this virus, we know the reason why we are there, it’s a common goal and the whole nation is behind us. It is a war we will win.”