Darren’s life started to fall apart after he left the military. He’d been the fourth generation of his family to serve in the Armed Forces, joining the RAF in 1986.
He decided to leave the Forces after he got married so he could focus on family life. He began working at British Rail as the Chief Steward within the catering team for Network Rail, and then worked for a computer business.
“I found myself in an overwhelming situation.”
It was during this time that Darren became a father to two children, but tragically also suffered the loss of two further children who were stillborn. The stress of coping with such bereavement led to his marriage breaking down and Darren began to struggle with the end of his relationship, as well at coping with life outside the Armed Forces.
Darren in his RAF uniform.
After leaving the family home, Darren found he had nowhere to go and struggled to find an outlet for help and guidance, with his local council unable to help with accommodation. Darren became increasingly frustrated and disheartened by his situation and it was at this point he suffered a nervous breakdown.
He said: “I found myself in an overwhelming situation; I was suffering mental health issues and became desperate for permanent residency. I was at the bottom of the council waiting list for housing and I didn’t know who to go to for help and where to turn – I found it very upsetting that I couldn’t gain answers of guidance.
“I was at the bottom of the council waiting list for housing and I didn’t know who to go to for help and where to turn.”
“After a time sofa surfing, I ended up living in the local woods in Nottinghamshire and I thought that was it – the end. I went completely off the rails and I was drinking heavily, picking fights and I ended up one day lying on a train line. Luckily for me my friend found me in time and they decided to contact the Legion for help.
“After contacting the Legion I was then helped by Framework and placed in Nottingham’s Elizabeth House, communal housing that supports single homeless people. This was the first step in admitting I needed help and towards living independently again.
“The Legion was crucial to getting me back on my feet and allowing me to accept that although I had been homeless I wasn’t worthless.”
“The Legion then helped me with a comradeship and when I moved into my own flat, provided me with white goods, along with financial support and advice."
“It took me two to three years to stabilise and get my life back on track but the Legion was there every step of the way in my recovery.”
Soon after Darren met his second wife, realising that he had known her during his time in The Air Training Corps and had not seen her for 15 years. They have now been together for eight years and got married in 2014.
“It took me two to three years to stabilise and get my life back on track but the Legion was there every step of the way in my recovery. I didn’t have a clue before I made contact with the Legion that they offered such essential financial support and welfare services and my own experience prompted me to get involved with my local branch.”
Darren was invited by his local chairman to attend a branch meeting and he soon joined as a member and quickly became immersed in the Legion’s welfare activity within the local community, holding the positions of Branch Vice Chairman and Volunteer Case Worker and went on to join the County Committee of The Nottinghamshire Royal British Legion.
“I didn’t have a clue before I made contact with the Legion that they offered such essential financial support and welfare services.”
Darren’s involvement with the Legion doesn’t stop at being an active member. After three years being a volunteer case worker and County officer, the Area Manager for the East Midlands advised him he would be the perfect candidate for the role of a newly created post of Advice & Information Officer – he has now held that position since July 2013.
“No matter how bad the situation, there is always a way out in in the most desperate of times. There are people and organisations that will and can help.”
Darren has aided setting up outreach advice posts throughout Derbyshire and Pop In Centre in Derby, as well as being a Poppy Appeal Organiser for his local area. Darren is also the Adjutant at 138 (1st Nottingham) Squadron Royal Air Force Air Cadets and is currently applying for his Commission as a potential Officer.
“No matter how bad the situation and the frustrations there is always a way out in in the most desperate of times. There are people and organisations that will and can help and the road may be long and bumpy, it will even drive you to breaking point, but connecting and engaging with those that can help is the first step to turning your life around.”
Help support veterans
Whether it’s providing financial guidance, careers advice for those leaving the service, or supporting those injured in the course of their duty, The Royal British Legion is here to support the Armed Forces community.