A team of Trustees, from the newly launched charity Hounds for Heroes, deployed to RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, at the invitation of 99 Squadron, in order to raise awareness of the charity’s work amongst current serving personnel and also gain a better understanding of the squadron’s roll.
99 Squadron plays a major role in supporting the forward battle groups, on the front lines, around the world, transporting the troops, supplying vital equipment 24/7 and quite poignantly bringing home injured servicemen and women. The versatility of the aircraft and dedication of the RAF crews enable a rapid turnaround of aircraft configuration to meet an ever changing requirement.
A busy military airbase is not quite the normal environment one would expect to find a Hounds for Heroes assistance dog but both EJ and reservist dog Ikea took the day touring around the various aircraft such as C17s (Globemaster), Tri-Star jets and the back ground support units in their stride. The never ending stream of aircraft arriving and departing, the thundress roar of aircraft engines departing at full throttle was incredible but both dogs remain totally non plus about the whole thing. Even during the photo call the two faithful hound remained total focused on the job in hand, in fact it was the human partners that were far too easily distracted by the airfield activities!
Gulf war veteran Allen Parton (Founder of Hounds for Heroes and Royal Navy veteran) said “a visit like this brings back such a great sense of personnel loss for me, the services was my life for over 20 years, my chosen career for life and then it was all suddenly taken away. Equally though to see such a dedicated and proud team of servicemen and women making all this happen and so efficiently was so inspiring and has made me even more determined to make Hounds for Heroes a true success. We owe it to these young men and women that should that day come that they too are injured or disabled we are there to assist them in long term rehabilitation”
During the visit the Hounds for Heroes team met up with the a group of town members from Wootten Basset, made world famous for the way it honors the fallen servicemen and women as the funeral processions pass though the town’s high street. It was an emotionally charged day for all as the crews of 99 Squadron have the unenviable task of bringing the fallen back from Afghanistan. However to have the dogs there was such a morale booster for so many of the guests there and lightened the procedures somewhat.
The inside of the cavernous belly of the Globemaster was one of the more unusual places that EJ and Ikea have been photographed in, at one point leaving Allen behind EJ visited the cockpit for a photo opportunity first having to ascend a near vertical flight of stairs an obstacle that posed him no difficulty in either direction thanks to the guidance of Sqn Leader Wayne Palmer (how was he ever going to explain to his wife about all those blonde hairs all over his uniform when he went home that evening?)
“It was so humbling for us to have so many offers of help from the Wootten Bassett group” said Allen ” a town so strongly associated with remembering our fallen now wanting to help the many injured and traumatized servicemen and women”
Hounds for Heroes has started it’s “Puppies on Parade Appeal” where the charity aims at raising £100,000, which will pay for 5 dogs for 5 years. With over 900,000 injured Servicemen and women in the UK the charity has a big hill to climb. The vision is to have disabled Service, and Emergency Service, personnel with Hounds for Heroes dogs as regular sights on the high streets.
Squadron Leader Wayne Palmer (Chairman of Hounds for Heroes) said “This has been a great day and we feel we have a lot of synergy with 99 Squadron. They are one of the first parts of the healing process and we will be the last part. Our aim is to have the perception of the great British public to change and see an assistance dog as a badge of honour. We look forward to the day that a “Hound” is on the Annual Remembrance Parade by the Cenotaph in London.”
More information at: www.houndsforheroes.com, facebook/houndsforheroes and twitter/houndsforheroes.