Former soldier holds race night to say thank you

Derek O'Donnell with the 1 Scots piper and recruitment personnel, plus Glasgow Warriors rugby playe and former 1Scots soldier Junior Batlumakau.
Derek O'Donnell with the 1 Scots piper and recruitment personnel, plus Glasgow Warriors rugby playe and former 1Scots soldier Junior Batlumakau.

A former soldier living in Coldstream held a charity event at the weekend to thank those who have helped him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Derek O’Donnell, 34, was in the Army for seven years, but after being involved in an accident while serving with the Royal Regiment of Scotland in Kenya, he developed PTSD and has also been suffering from non-epileptic attack disorder.

Derek fell 20 feet onto a rocket launcher and was left paralysed for three days.

“I moved to Coldstream for peace and quiet,” said Derek, a regular at the town’s Royal British Legion club since he moved to the town 18 months ago.

“I needed a change, to get away from the military, and I have been welcomed into the town.

“When I first came down, because I didn’t know anyone I got involved in the ammies football.

“I was going through a difficult stage, and they helped me.

After contacting a US marine on Facebook Derek found out about a PTSD programme in America and he travelled out there for treatment.

“To me, the treatment here is old-fashioned and although I tried different charities, it didn’t work for me, so I had to look elsewhere,” said Derek.

Thanks to that treatment and the support of Coldstream Amateur Football Club, the legion club and local councillor and Scottish Borders Council veterans’ champion John Greenwell, life for Derek has turned a corner.

“Most ex-servicemen that suffer from PTSD turn into recluses, but Derek has done the right thing and engaged with services and helped himself,” said the Mid Berwickshire councillor.

“One of the most important things we try to do is to stop our vulnerable ex-servicemen retreating into their own houses and suffering from social isolation. Loneliness can be a killer.”

Matthew Clark, chairman of the football club, said: “When Derek first came to Coldstream, the ammies were his first port of call. He got on well with everyone, so when he mentioned organising a charity night, there was no hesitation about being involved.”

At the weekend Derek organised a charity race night for the legion and Poppy Scotland. The recruitment team in Edinburgh that he worked with travelled down for the event, plus a piper from his old regiment and Glasgow Warriors rugby player Junior Butlumakau, who served in 1 Scots with Derek.

The reason for choosing to raise money for Poppy Scotland was because it helped find Derek his new home, one of the veterans’ houses in Kelso Road, Coldstream, and the town’s legion club is now like a second home to him.

In January, after being on sick leave for 18 months, Derek was given a medical discharge from the Army, and although he is not out of the woods yet, life for Derek and wife Amanda continues to improve.