The Flat Cap Coffee Roasting Company was established in 2018 by husband-and-wife duo, Mark and Alex. Prior to their new business, veteran Mark left the Army due to complex PTSD and physical injuries in 2017 after 23 years’ service and Alex gave up her job working with primary aged children to help Mark with his recovery.
‘’Neither of us have extended families so during the time of Mark’s discharge, it was lonely and frightening. Help for Heroes provided us with somewhere to go and became the ‘family’ that we didn’t have. When we needed someone to chat to or have a coffee with, there was always someone there. If we needed someone to talk to, there was always someone to listen and to offer advice. The organised events that Help for Heroes run such as coffee mornings and family days out gave us the opportunity to meet other people in similar situations making us realise that we weren’t the only people going through what we were facing and that we could overcome our barriers and build up our lives again. Without Help for Heroes, I don’t think we’d be where we are today’’.
In addition to emotional support, the couple received practical support in the form of business courses and a business mentor and as avid lovers of coffee, Mark and Alex began establishing their own coffee roasting blends at home. 2019 brought this passion to life when they opened their very own Roastery near Salisbury Plain. The Flat Cap Coffee brand was born.
‘’When Mark left the military, he was so used to wearing his beret that he felt very exposed without it. He received a flat cap as a gift and began to wear it as a replacement for his beret. He built up quite an extensive collection of flat caps and is very rarely seen without one! When we were thinking of names for the business, it seemed to be an obvious choice and suited us perfectly’’.
The Flat Cap Coffee Company specialises in high quality coffee beans from around the globe, offering superior taste; all roasted by hand and shipped far and wide.
The hope for Mark, Alex and their coffee brand is to, ‘’inspire and to help others who may be struggling, to raise awareness of the many issues faced and give back to the charity in any way that we can’’.
Mark and Alex’s message to anyone thinking of supporting Help for Heroes is, ‘’Help for Heroes needs your support now more than ever before. The number of Veterans that need help and support is growing, and the work that Help for Heroes do is completely life changing’’.
To anyone who might be thinking of coming forward for support from Help for Heroes, they offer this advice, ‘The first step is the hardest but once you have made it, you are already on your journey to recovery. Approach Help for Heroes and they will give you non-judgemental help and support in which ever areas you need it. It really will change your life for the better’.
Former Royal Air Force veteran, Dave Rose from Norfolk, spent 31 years as an Aircraft Engineer before leaving the service in 2018 due to physical injuries sustained on duty. Dave’s injuries included a partially paralysed right arm and hand, having a spinal Cord Stimulator fitted and taking strong medication to deal with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
Dave first encountered Help for Heroes whilst at Headley Court, where Help for Heroes Band of Brothers fellowship offered support. Dave visited Chavasse VC House Recovery centre in Colchester where sport played a major part in Dave’s recovery journey. ‘’I attended several activities, including a 3 day Outwards Bounds Residential, Beneficiary & Partner activity weekend and indoor skiing with Disability Skiing UK.’’ Dave went on to become part of team True Spirit at Phoenix House Recovery Centre and attended training weekends, competing in triathlons and other extreme challenges.
‘’Injury slowly took away my ability to do the adventurous and sporting activities I loved. This, along with seeing my career slip through my fingers, hit me hard and I was not in a good place. A lot of people and organisations (RAF benevolent Fund, Royal British Legion, SSAFA, Headley Court & more) were involved in my recovery with Help for Heroes playing a major role. The events and opportunities were the vehicle that introduced me to other injured personnel, from whom I grew friendships, gained knowledge, and received support. The activities allowed me to discover what I could do with adaption, be part of a team again and regain belief in myself. My ultimate example is the Lakeland 50 event with Team True Spirit; a 50-mile hike across the Lake District Hills in under 24 hours. It was the hardest thing I have done since injury, but with a staff member with me every step of the way and a fantastic team, I completed it; the extreme effort is long forgotten but the achievement and extraordinary support will not’’.
Dave’s message to those who support Help for Heroes: ‘’Your support has helped people like me think and act beyond their perceived limitations, re-engage with the community and lead a wholesome life’’.
Dave first got introduced to riding trikes whilst on the Help for Heroes Battleback recovery course.’’ I was really struggling to come to terms with my injury, the discomfort, and the future; I was withdrawn, angry and felt isolated. The trike was one of the first things I found I could do without too much pain, gave me the same buzz as upright cycling, and re-introduced an amount of risk that I could control’’.
To anyone thinking of trying out a trike for themselves Dave says, “You don’t have to have an injury to ride a trike and there’s a few advantages over the 2-wheelers, like never falling over at the traffic lights when you can’t unclip and the knowledge that 3 wheels beats 2 on ice! As for advice, get a good idea what type of riding you’re going to do (road, trail, competition, touring, etc), get chatting with some trike riders and to make sure you get the most suitable model - try before you buy.’’
Dave helped test the recumbent cycling jersey and give helpful feedback on its performance during the design and production stage. ‘’Prior to this Recumbent specific item, I’ve had to use a standard cycling jersey, which when you’re sitting in a chair means no useful pockets, moisture wicking materials in the wrong place and a fit that just doesn’t work. The final design has addressed these issues meaning I now have a place for my phone, snacks, keys and all manner of items whilst remaining comfortable with far improved moisture control. Having consulted with fellow riders during the design phase and tested the production version, I think people will be pleased’’.
2021 has many positive challenges ahead for Dave. ’The first is to get back on form following a period of injury related then being hit with Covid, means training is all about gently building up the distance to regain stamina prior to adding the speed and race drills. Fortunately, I’ll be able to do some of this training virtually through the terrifically supportive Help for Heroes Zwift Rides. The second half of 2021 should see a couple of half-distance triathlons with Team True Spirit, a charity cycle with the RAF Benevolent Fund, and getting out again with my local cycling club. Hopefully the Covid situation will greatly improve, and more opportunities will become apparent.’
To anyone thinking of coming forward for support, Dave says, ‘The hardest thing is to admit you cannot do it alone and to ask for help. Looking back, I cannot believe the journey I’ve been on, and the person I’ve become, all of which started through asking for help’.
When Help for Heroes Ambassador Paul heard about our new charity gaming fundraiser, Hero Up, he immediately signed up to stream a 24hr gaming marathon with fellow veterans over VE Day and fundraise for the charity.
“If I was to summarise gaming to me it would be it creates focus. It provides a place to share problems, to iron things out and create a distraction from the things that get me down, like pain or stress, worry and anxiety. It has a real positive effect on me, and has played a vital part in my recovery after each operation I’ve had.”
Army veteran Paul Colling served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Royal Corps of Signals, but lost the life and the job he loved after a traumatic leg injury during a training exercise left him in near-constant pain.
He knew from a young age that his goal was to follow in his brother’s footsteps and serve. “Joining the army was everything, it was who I wanted to be”. As a physical trainer in the Signals, sports-loving Paul regularly took part in endurance marches and fitness training. But an injury sustained early on in his career was to have enduring consequences; Paul sustained a traumatic ankle injury, damaging the ligaments, tendons and cartilage during a training exercise.
Despite his injury causing him frequent bouts of pain, Paul went on to have a successful career training recruits. But in 2017 this came to a sudden end; another training exercise had caused more damage. “They scanned my leg, and I was told I had to leave. It was like my world ended. Who you are, everything you’ve worked for, everything you wanted to achieve just gone.”
On the surface, Paul seemed to manage the transition into civilian life fairly seamlessly. He found a new job and his employers were understanding when operations for his injury were needed. But the soldier inside was at war with his new path, and Paul struggled mentally with the sudden loss of his military identity. Twice, he reached the point where he considered ending his own life.
A Help for Heroes coaching course provided a crucial turning point. “The course helped me accept that I probably wasn’t 100% mentally where I thought I was. It made me see life from a different perspective and it’s also helped me help others along the way."
As well as Help for Heroes, Paul found a comfort in gaming during his recovery.
“Gaming has a positive effect all round for me, it takes my mind of the pain a little. I can’t remember what it feels like to be pain free and that can really wear you down at times almost to the breaking point. Playing games gives you a little bit of focus, when you can’t get about it can keep your mind actively busy.”
February 2021 marked the 30th Anniversary since the end of the first Gulf War and Royal Navy Veteran and Help for Heroes Ambassador, Nick Richardson was proud to wear one of our new commemorative T-Shirt designs, the HMS Gloucester.
Nick completed 23 years of service before being medically discharged. Nick reached out to Help for Heroes in 2012 at a time when he was quite unwell. ’’I had served in the Royal Navy for over 20 years prior to this time and was very unsure as to what the future might hold’’.
‘’Since reaching out to the charity I have been able to access practical support in terms of grant funding to help adapt my home. In addition to this my wife and family have been able to access the various activities and offers available to them and while I do not currently need to reach out for any support, I continue to be a supporter’’.
Nick is an Ambassador for Help for Heroes and is proud to share his story and help others like him. ‘’It allows me to contribute and give something back in support of the charity. It helps me say “thank you” to all those who have contributed, in whatever way, and show my gratitude to all Help for Heroes supporters. It is especially important as the country comes to terms with other issues and when military personnel continue to serve both at home and abroad – the need for charities such as Help for Heroes will never go away."
Nick was keen to be involved in helping with the design knowledge for the T-Shirt graphic, working alongside our Trading design manager, Charlotte. ‘’Having served in Type 42 Destroyers, it seemed like a good idea to be able to help get the look of the ship “correct” – The Type 42 had a very distinctive profile and getting the proportions right are not easy. I didn’t want the ship to look wrong – the closer it looked to the real thing the better! I hope that our supporters will want to wear the new range of T-Shirts’’.
‘’I would not have been able to successfully transition into civilian life. Help for Heroes provided support at a time when I was particularly unwell and helped me see through the myriad of issues that I needed to deal with and move forward with my new life”.
‘’Please keep supporting the great work that is done by the charity and its partner organisations. Military Veterans do not always advocate for themselves and many have ongoing complex needs attributed to wounds illness or injury sustained in the service of their country. Please help them move forward and allow them to live fulfilling lives’’.