“I was a bit of a rebel in my younger days,” begins Leroy, as we sit down outside a coffee shop. “I was chasing a music career, jumping from job to job, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I’d just moved to a new house and one day saw this job ad for a stationery packer at The Legion. I didn’t have any wi-fi so I went to the local coffee shop to use theirs and apply.”
That was seven years ago now. Starting as a box packer, he now finds himself as the Warehouse Manager in Aylesford, Kent – playing a crucial role in The Poppy Appeal. But as he tells us in his naturally upbeat and jovial tone, without the organisation’s support he possibly wouldn’t have been here to tell this story.
“A few months into starting with the Legion I suffered a collapsed lung. It left me facing a lengthy stay in hospital and a major operation to take away some of my right lung. I was so worried about losing my job, but the Legion supported me and my family all the way through. I couldn’t believe how much they actually cared about my wellbeing. I found out I wasn’t just a number on the payroll, I was part of a family.”
You can hear how much that support meant to Leroy – and his family – and he’s been keen to repay that support ever since.
"Every course, every trip. You name it, I’ll put my name down for it! I even got to represent the Poppy Appeal at the Garden of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey. I met the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Harry. I couldn’t believe it…me rubbing shoulders with Royalty. It was amazing".
By his own admission, his favourite place to be is on the warehouse floor with his team. He tells us there’s no better bunch of people to pick you up and keep you grounded. But it’s those moments when he gets to represent the Legion that sometimes have the biggest impact on him.
“My passion for what I do grows year after year. The more you meet our beneficiaries, the more you hear their unbelievable stories. I have worked at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday for seven years, helping to arrange the regiments and war veterans on Horse Guards Parade. Having to arrange thousands of ex-service personnel can be a bit of a handful but so fun at the same time! Again, it reminds you why we do this and how lucky we really are today. It makes you want to help them more and more, and make their lives more comfortable. Knowing you help make that difference is one of the greatest feelings you can have.”
Leroy was keen to share his story, and just chatting to him and listening to his story you can understand why. But as we finish our coffees and get ready to go our separate ways, he wants to share one final reflection.
“I want people to know,” he says. “ It doesn’t matter who you are, you can do something in life. I left school with no qualifications. I jumped from job to job. I wasn’t going anywhere.
“The Legion took me in at rock bottom and supported me like they support our beneficiaries. You have to take every opportunity on offer to better yourself, but where I am now shows that even with nothing you can become something.”