AT just 16 years of age Grimsby teenager Lee Piggott followed a family tradition and joined the Army.
A former Havelock school pupil, Lee was destined for a career in the forces and in 1991 signed up to the Royal Pioneer Corps, which two years later became the Royal Logistics Corps.
Deployed in the jungle, he spent time in Belize, the Falkland Islands and Northern Ireland and experienced two car bomb attacks during his nine years of active service, which ended in 2000 – a choice made by Lee as he began to struggle with some aspects of army life.
Now, two decades on, Lee still recalls how he felt – and how, as a veteran – he still finds it hard to come to terms with some aspects of his life, post-army.
“I signed off back in 2000 because I was feeling unwell both mentally and physically. I recall feeling that things seemed to be going wrong, I knew in myself that something wasn’t right within me,” recalled Lee.
Being honest about his feelings to others was difficult for Lee in the environment he found himself in, which led to an increased feeling of being rundown and at odds with the world.
“I would say I was a ‘yes’ man, someone who wanted to please people but that is not always the right thing to do. I would hide a lot of emotion and these feelings are not what you tend to talk about, it would have been embarrassing to do so,” explained Lee.
Upon his exit from military life, Lee is the first one to admit how he wanted to keep himself busy, and as a result went too fast in trying to find work – not giving himself the time to clear his head, to relax and to ensure he was in the right frame of mind.
“I tried to get on with things myself, at the time I didn’t want to be a burden for other people. But I couldn’t settle, and things fell apart,” he said.
After his third separate redundancy, Lee was triggered into action – he realised he needed to see someone: “It was getting beyond the joke, I needed help but instead I was just jumping into work to keep myself busy,” he added.
A visit to Open Minds in Grimsby proved a turning point, along with a meeting with the group, Veterans Still Serving.
“It is hard to open up, but by doing so you express a lot of demons and can start to move on,” said Lee.
Now in his mid-40s, the next step on his journey was a CatZero programme for Veterans that was run in 2019 in Grimsby. It gave him new qualifications, new friends, new mentors, and new opportunity.
“It was really good, an eye-opener that there are people out there to support and encourage you. Getting to meet the CatZero team and participants was one of the best things about the programme – being involved and pulling together, along of course with the long sail to Cowes on the Isle of Wight. What a fantastic experience,” he added.
Lee’s course was supported in Grimsby by ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and Jobcentre Plus and has led to further opportunity for the ex-soldier. He has spent time with the Grimsby-based charity Veterans Still Serving and has joined forces with fellow veterans Steve Baxter and Steve Roberts to begin a charitable organisation called Valkyrie Wilderness Workshops.
Valkyrie is currently seeking funds to provide outdoor workshops. With land near Binbrook in Lincolnshire secured for their use, the activities are designed to help vulnerable groups and individuals to build confidence, resilience, instil self-discipline, increase self-esteem, develop problem-solving skills, and create coping strategies.
Lee is certain that it has been the support he has received from CatZero, along with the VSS and Open Minds, that has seen him arrive at this positive point in his life.
For more information on Valkyrie go https://www.wilderness-workshops.com/
A new CatZero Veterans Programme is due to start mid-September. For more information email [email protected] or phone 01482 333303 (answer messages are being picked up).