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The Battle of Civvy Street; REVEALED HEROES FACE THEIR HARDEST REVEALED BATTLE BUILDING NEW LIFE DURING PEACETIME.

Byline: MAGGIE BARRY

They spend their lives in service to their country. But once they leave the armed forces, they face a new fight - to get a job. Research carried out by Poppyscotland suggests up to 28,000 veterans could be looking for work on civvy street. A spokeswoman said: "This is because many of the skills acquired by servicemen and women are not recognised in civilian life. Yet the Army know these are transferable skills which should make them valuable members of their community." The small business loans scheme was born to plug the gap for veterans, allowing them funds to set up on their own and provide them with the chance of a different career. The loans have made all the difference to hundreds of men and women. Here, MAGGIE BARRY speaks to three veterans who have been building a new life after wartime.

WHEN James Black left the Army he found civvy street a bigger battle than fighting for his country.

In two years he had more than 60 jobs, which included truck driving, working with animals, support worker, care worker&the list goes on.

But it was not until he began having flashbacks, sweats and the shakes that he was finally diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

For five months he was unable to work as he tried to adjust from 25 years in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to the nine-to-five regime of a civilian existence.

He said: "Poppyscotland saved my life. If it wasn't for that organisation, I don't know where I'd be.

"At that time the Army just dumped you on civvy street. One day you were in a structure you knew and the next you were on your own.

"I think it's getting better now but when I came out in 2005 there was nothing."

As James, 45, fought back to health, he took part in a resettlement programme and realised that he wanted to work for himself.

And it is not surprising. In the Army he had been a specialist instructor in survival techniques in Arctic and desert conditions, teaching soldiers how to live off the land and be reliant on themselves.

He has climbed Mount Kenya 30 times, Kilimanjaro 10 times and has done the Annapurna circuit five times.

He has worked all over the world, from Northern Ireland to the Falklands and Bosnia to the Gulf War - and was one of the team chosen for Operation Veritas in Afghanistan.

Now, thanks to Poppyscotland's loan, he has taken his years of training and expertise to Callander, where he is revelling in the success of his Trossachs Wilderness Treks.

He said: "I got pounds 5000 and I spent it on canoes, wetsuits, paddles, ropes - all the safety equipment.

"The treks have proved to be really popular. I take people hillwalking, do canoe safaris and teach navigational skills as well as bushcraft - what plants you can safely eat to survive and how to get clean water. I also do the history and heritage of the region. We look at the flora and fauna - otters, ospreys, golden eagles - and I talk about the geology too.

"I wanted to make sure I was up to speed so I took extra environmental and ecological courses through Open University. People seem to like it and I love it."

This year James is determined to expand by offering corporate courses and leadership skills. And from his base at the Crown Hotel, he is in big demand.

He is an assessor for the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, a member of the Trossachs search-and-rescue team and is about to join the Army cadets as an instructor.

He said: "The Army taught me so much but it took a while before I realised. Now I am making a living doing what I love."

Dog lover Denise Ward set up a home boarding service for people's pets when she left the WRAF and moved to Scotland. A former air traffic controller at Brize Norton, Bruggen in Germany and RAF Waddington, she heard the Royal British Legion could help out ex-ser vice personnel with loans. She was redirected to Poppyscotland.

Denise said: "That was three years ago. I had applied for the full pounds 7000 but they awarded me pounds 3500. It helped me out tremendously. I was able to buy uniforms and invest in cages, ramps and first-aid kits. I hit the ground running."

Now Denise's business - Pet Royale, in Doune, Stirlingshire - is thriving. She can look after pets in her house or house-sit them in their owner's home. She said: "The loan system for veterans is a fantastic way to help them sett le back into civilian life. For me, it was just crucial."

I am still ready to serve.. at my deli

FORMER royal marine Brian Skerritt has swapped service on the frontline for service behind the counter.

And the commando has already tasted victory. Only eight weeks after he opened his delicatessen, The Corner House in Arbroath, it won an award for the best new cheese retailer in Scotland.

Brian, who served in 3 Commando Brigade, is spending his days a world away from the life he knew as a sergeant major specialising in communications and intelligence, tactics and strategy.

He said: "This is a real family business. My wife Sarah helps me and my daughters do what they can at the weekends.

"We try to source local produce. We are proud of our wild salmon from this part of the world and our organic eggs from a local farmer."

Brian, 42, spent 22 years in the marines, including three tours in Afghanistan and two in Iraq, as well as trouble spots such as Sierra Leone.

He finished his military career stationed in Angus - an area he and his wife grew to love and where they decided to settle.

Brian said: "We liked giving dinner parties and entertaining but found we had to travel quite far to find a good delicatessen.

"There wasn't one in Tayside or Angus so that was the catalyst for setting up our own."

The couple spent the last two years of Brian's time in the forces researching suppliers and working out what they needed. That's when they found out about the Poppyscotland scheme.

They applied for a loan and, with pounds 7000, Brian invested in a computer data system that links his till to his scales.

He said: "They wanted me to extend my service but why would I when I have this?"

For more information, contact Poppyscotland or look online at www.poppyscotland.org.uk

CAPTION(S):

On duty: Brian in the marines War and cheese: Brian's shop has won an award It's a dog's life: Denise with pets Courageous: James in Northern Ireland in 1991 King of the wild: James, left, gets ready for a trek at Loch Lubnaig, near Callander and, above, during the Falklands War
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 27, 2011
Words:1145
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