Homeless Veterans appeal: Return of the fallen triggers so many emotions for poet

Eric Ridley was moved to tell our veterans' stories in verse
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Eric Ridley, an incorporated engineer with the Institute of Engineering and Technology, read about our homeless veterans appeal and decided to make a contribution of his own – in the form of a poem. Eric has several friends in the military and has spent most of his career working with former military personnel. He wanted to pay his respects to our fallen men and women so he attended the salute given by the Royal Marines and Royal British Legion as bodies were repatriated to the defence academy at Watchfield and then at RAF Brize Norton.

Eric began writing poems about those who lost their lives, and those who have suffered physically or emotionally. "On many occasions I have sat down with family members or friends of the fallen from so many of our conflicts and they have opened up and cried their heart out," he says. "Physical injuries are there for all to see but the emotional and psychological damage they suffer gets buried until something comes along to bring it out … the repatriations.

"Some of the veterans shared my poems with others, some found me and told me more... I gave a lot of thought to what they told me and wanted to write something down. Helping others release their emotions can only be a good thing."

Eric, with the support of mainly military veterans, has published two books of poems for the benefit of military charities.

"Soldiers are trained to control and not release emotion … to harden themselves and not to dwell on it, which isn't necessarily natural. Poetry offer a way to articulate what they feel," said Mr Ridley.

"I am pleased The Independent and Independent on Sunday have done this campaign, and have written this poem to help. People need to understand what our forces have been through and what they still go though."

So Badly Scarred

Another night, a cardboard box

A bottle by my side

The high street that I sleep on

I once marched along with pride

My friends and family waving flags

They cheered for me so loud

Some families embraced photographs

Sad faces in the crowd

My tour complete, I was now home

A family life. Relax.

But then the cut-backs hit me

My career, my job was axed

I felt so bloody angry

The life I loved, where I stood tall

So many tours of duty

Survived the battles

Came home to fall

 

A civvy life came all too soon.

A different queue each day.

Fill-in forms to make ends meet

Then benefits delay.

Struggling to pay bills on time,

Continually assessed

But because I found a job, I worked

I came off less than best

 

Free to come home every night

A family "do our thing"

The nightmares of my battles fought

Were there, but locked within

My world was now a different place

But never a new start

I struggled, my wife stood by me

My children gave me heart

 

I love my wife, but could not show

So screwed-up deep inside

The man she married came back home

The man she loved had died.

My wife I didn't share with her

My anger broke her heart

But not because she saw it

Silence! ... tore our love apart

 

My shell became my armour

Drink became my friend

The anger grew inside of me

No more could I pretend

This different place, this different world

Was not what I had planned

My wife's love kept me trying

Why! ... I couldn't understand

 

This cardboard box should never be

Is this what I fought for?

My duty for my country

A forces' veteran still at war

My war, it is my nightmares

My wife she fought them too

Until she couldn't take no more

Our children never knew

 

The answers are there somewhere!

To bring about an end

I'm not the only one in need

So many still pretend

The answers are there somewhere!

Steps to take are not just mine

Don't let me see my end like this

Or end-up doing time

 

The first steps can be easy

Those same steps can be hard

For a veteran that sleeps rough each night

With a mind so badly scarred

Eric Ridley

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