‘Remember the fallen’. Poignant words which echoed across Manchester today as more than 100 soldiers, veterans and cadets hit the streets with collection boxes in hand for the city’s first ever Poppy Day.
Proceedings were kicked off in Piccadilly Gardens by Warren Smith, The Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, who pinned poppies on notable heroes the Poppy Appeal has already helped.
One of those was Corporal Andy Reid, 37, from St. Helens, who lost both legs and right arm in an IED explosion on foot patrol in Afghanistan.
Corporal Reid decribed to MM what living with his injury since 2011 was like.
“At the time it was hard to feel too sorry for myself, I had friends who lost their lives in Afghanistan but I was still here,” he said.
“In a strange way I felt lucky – more than anything I knew I had the duty to turn a negative into a positive somehow.”
With the help of the Legion and the Poppy Appeal, Corporal Reid received the support he needed before using his experiences to aid those in a similar position.
“Being able to talk to lads who have had an amputation or are just about to is so rewarding,” he added.
“It’s a very, very scary and confidence destroying prospect – having someone who’s been through it there to talk to you is vital.”
Since being injured Corporal Reid has become a motivational speaker, fund raiser, founder of AIM (Amputation Inspiration Motivation) and this year took part in the Washington Marathon on a specially adapted bike.
“Being in the army I was used to a very active lifestyle and besides the physical and emotional support the Legion gave they helped me adjust and carry on with my life,” he said.
“With their help I’ve been rock climbing, indoor kayaking and done other activities that would usually be impossible for someone in my situation.”
In February of this year he released his first book, Standing Tall. In it he chronicles his astonishing story, from service in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, to his life post-limb loss.
The sale of poppies helps Corporal Reid and thousands like him through rehabilitation, financial aid, legal help and countless other services.
Lisa McKinley, from Garstang, whose husband Lance Corporal Johnathan McKinlay was shot and killed in Afghanistan in 2011, was also in attendance with proud daughter Piper.
Mrs McKinlay said: “It’s amazing knowing millions of millions of Brits support the service people who have given so much up for us.
“The Legion help keep the memory of Jonathan and what people like him did alive.”
The RBL spend £1.6million every week on direct care and support for the whole of the Armed Forces, past and present.
Richard Foster, the Legion’s area manager for Greater Manchester said: “The great thing about the Poppy Appeal is that the whole of society – every creed, colour and age come and give back to the armed forces made up of the same diverse make up of incredible people.”
Around a third of the Legion’s yearly donations come from the sale of poppies, this year they hope to raise £37million in the week running up to Remembrance Day.
Dave Townly, from the Navy Reserves, is on the front line of today’s fund raising activities as one of the volunteers selling poppy’s all over the city centre.
“Some charities you see here in town have to give a hard sell to people.
“But even in this miserable weather people are so generous and eager to come give some money and to proudly wear their poppy.”
“And so they should!” said Margaret Fletcher, 74, as she pinned her freshly bought poppy to her scarf, undeterred by the fierce rain.
This year an estimated 42 million poppies will be distributed by over 300,000 volunteers.
Charles Byrne, Director of Fundraising for the Legion, said: “In the last few years we’ve had fantastic success with London Poppy Day so now its Manchester’s turn.
“If you see our team of poppy sellers, please give whatever you can – every poppy sold will help us to make a huge difference to the lives of the whole Armed Forces community.”