Ex-soldier who felt 'suicidal' tells how Poppy Appeal saved his life

Former soldier who became homeless after struggling to find a job when he left the Army and spent 13 weeks living in a tent in the woods feeling ‘suicidal’ reveals the Poppy Appeal saved his life

  • Leon Parker joined Army when he was 16 and was infantry soldier for five years
  • After leaving, Leon felt isolated and missed the comradery of his fellow soldiers 
  • Was feeling suicidal while living in a tent alone with no phone or human contact 
  • Within two days of phoning the British Legion he had a deposit on furnished flat 

A former soldier has told how the Poppy Appeal saved his life after he was left homeless and suicidal following five years in the British Army. 

Leon Parker, 20, from Wirral, was 16 when he signed up as an infantry soldier and served in Malaysia, Germany and Canada before leaving service in 2016. 

Appearing on This Morning today, he admitted he found it difficult to transition back to civilian life and told how he felt isolated and struggled to find a job – eventually ending up homeless living in a tent in the woods.  

He revealed that after 13 weeks sleeping rough, he phoned the British Legion and within two days he was provided with a deposit for a furnished flat with the first month’s rent paid. 

Leon Parker, 20, from Wirral joined the British Army as an infantry soldier and served in Malaysia, Germany and Canada before leaving service in 2016 

He appeared on This Morning today to reveal how he found it difficult to transition to civilian life, struggling to cope without his fellow soldiers 

Telling how he struggled to adapt to live without the comradery of his fellow soldiers, Leon said: ‘It sounds silly but it’s like going to high school again.

‘I’ve served in different places, did that for about five years. When you’re in the Army you have three meals a day, you’re surrounded by your whole platoon.

‘You’re with 30 or 40 people, and then when you leave you’re sort of by yourself.  They ask you where you want a train ticket to and that’s it.’

After leaving the Army, Leon was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was allocated a psychiatrist and prescribed anti-depressants, but he still felt he didn’t have anyone to talk to.

Leon told how he missed being surrounded by 30 or 40 other members of his platoon – and after being diagnosed with PTSD he found it difficult to talk to anyone other than his fellow soldiers 

After cutting off all communication with his family, Leon lived alone in the woods with his dog for 13 weeks with no human contact, trying to cope with his PTSD

He explained: ‘It got to a point where I got suicidal. The doctors, it’s easy for them to just put you on tablets and you’re out the door. 

‘They don’t really help, for the long course it doesn’t help.’ 

After cutting off all communication with his family, Leon lived alone in the woods with his dog for 13 weeks with no human contact, trying to cope with his PTSD. 

He said: ‘At about 13 weeks of being in the tent I sort of felt OK again. I had no phone or letters and I was just happy again and normal.’ 

Leon urged viewers to buy a poppy from a collector across the UK this year and insisted that without the charity, he would still be homeless

Leon now works as a chef at the Hillbark Hotel in Wirral and has found love with girlfriend Maisie

It was only when the cold temperatures prevented him from remaining in the tent that he decided to phone the British Legion. 

He said: ‘It was December, it was raining, and me and my dog were getting wet and I just rang them and they helped. Within two days I had a deposit on a flat and the first month’s rent. 

‘Life’s better now, I have a two-bedroom house and a beautiful girlfriend. I’m a chef in the UK’s smallest five star hotel.’ 

The former soldier urged viewers to buy a poppy from a collector across the UK this year and insisted that without the charity, he would still be homeless. 

‘I would have been in the same lifestyle in the hostels,’ he said. ‘People don’t realise what buying a poppy could do.’

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