By Katie Bellis Video Journalist 17:19, 21 JAN 2020 Updated17:29, 21 JAN 2020
Over the years Sean Gregory has known 20 soldiers from across Wales who have died in accidents or taken their own lives
Sean Gregory and friend Lyndon Barton are raising money to make a difference to the lives of the children who’ve lost their fathers (Image: Sean Gregory)
A former soldier has described the heartache of losing four of his best friends, who were all servicemen, to suicide and tragic accidents – three of them in under a year.
Sean Gregory served in the British Army between 2003 and 2013.
Over the years he says he’s known 20 soldiers, 19 of those men were from across Wales, who have died in tragic accidents or sadly taken their own lives after suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
And four of those men he describes as “brothers” to him. All of them leave behind young children.
Sean lost his first best friend in 2012 when Michael Thacker, who was from Cwmbran, was fatally shot in Afghanistan when he was just 27.
Then in October 2018, Richard Williams, 28, from North Wales died in a car crash.
Less than a year later, in August 2019, Daniel Gomez, from Bishopston in Swansea , was just 34 when he took his own life.
Just a month later, Richard Blain, 37, from Wrexham, also died in a car crash.
Sean, who is from Wrexham, is speaking out about the impact working in the Army has had on him and why he is trying to make a difference to 10 young children who have to live the rest of their lives without their dads.
“I had to witness death and I have seen things that people wouldn’t have seen in their worst nightmares.,” he says of his career in the Armed Forces.
“Its hard to adjust to life after the Army which is why people have taken their own life because of mental health problems due to their experiences and troubles from war,” he said.
And Sean admits that, like so many other servicemen who have witnessed the horrors of war firsthand, he has also suffered from PTSD.
He said: “After leaving the forces all I would do was think, it was constantly on my mind. I was depressed and I went through a phase where I was hardly eating or drinking water.
“I went to the doctors and I was put on anti depressants but it didn’t seem to work. I was sad and miserable.
“It impacted my work, relationship and life.
“I was feeling down, all of these problems and depression mainly hit me after all of this happened, it wasn’t until around Christmas I decided to change my way of thinking.
“Out of the 20 soldiers, eight of them killed themselves due to mental health,” the 35-year-old said.
Now Sean is looking to do something positive in memory of his best friends. Along with Lyndon Barton, who is also a former serviceman, he will be running and walking from Wrexham to Swansea in March with the hope of raising £10,000.
The aim of this is to help pay for a holiday for the children of his friends who have passed away or “whatever they may need to bring a smile to their faces”.
He added: “After leaving the forces without a lot of skill to offer for employment other than my HGV license, I have since felt forced to stay in that line of work. There’s nothing I could do other than think, while hearing about a constant wave of negative, sad and unfortunate news.
“I wanted to change my way of thinking and try make a positive out of such negative news.
“All of the children are aged between two and 10. There’s nothing that would satisfy us more than knowing we have made a difference to the 10 children’s lives.”
A JustGiving page has been set up, you can donate here .
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
If you or a Veteran you know is suffering from PTSD, Anxiety, Loneliness or Depression, you are not alone.
The – Minds At War – Crisis Support Helpline Number is open 24/7 and a First Responder is on call at all times.
- 0800 031 4368
You can also ring this same number during normal hours and seek advice, support and guidance.