The casual, almost blas’, way in which Davies referred to ’that Friday night’ is astonishing given what he was talking about
In the Long Room at the Honourable Artillery Club last night, Nicholas Harrison’s charity Soldier On! brought together a fascinating group of ex-servicemen for a networking event he hopes will prove crucial to their reintegration into civilian life.
I hope that some important relationships were formed last night, between former soldiers and corporations that are prepared to open their doors to them. Their talents and ambitions post-army life are as disparate as you would expect, but they all have remarkable stories to tell, as I learnt last night.
‘That Friday night was probably a defining moment of my life, but at the same time it was just something that happened to me. Just one of those things,’ Harrison’s colleague Nick Davies told me as we made our way to the makeshift bar in the Long Room. The casual, almost blasé, way in which Davies referred to ‘that Friday night’ is astonishing given what he was talking about: a night in 2007 when, fighting Taliban forces in Helmand Province, he lost his left leg in an explosion. Others were killed.
Davies has not let the incident, which ended a career he was passionate about in seconds, hold him back at all. He started work as a Candidate Manager for Soldier On! in January and is planning a 1,100 mile sponsored bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats in September this year, to raise much-needed funds for the charity.
Another ex-soldier, who has secured an internship that may lead to fulltime employment with the help of Soldier On!, gave a speech in which he told guests of being shot in the leg during service. The bullet entered his rear thigh and exited through his kneecap, ruining his chances of ever serving on the front line again. But for all you could tell from his tone, he might have been speaking of sustaining a cut or bruise during a rugby match.
Others are more reticent in talking about their experiences. I was fifteen minutes into a conversation with an executive director at Morgan Stanley before he mentioned that he was ex-forces himself. ‘It’s difficult talking about the things you’ve seen with people who haven’t been there,’ he told me. ‘It’s hard for them to understand what it’s like.’
Soldier On!, a four year old charity that has helped ten ex-forces men and women into work placements or employment over the last twelve months, offers a personalised ‘reverse headhunt’ careers service for its candidates, all of whom have been medically discharged – at various ages – from our armed forces. The courage and resilience displayed by the former soldiers present at the HAC last night will surely make them an asset to any company.