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‘Heroes need help for the rest of their lives'
IT was seeing his injured colleagues flown out of the battlefield which inspired Dave Lewis to take up their cause.
Now RAF engineer Mr Lewis wants as many others as possible to help him raise more cash to help injured heroes.
The 49-year-old, from Carterton, believes Oxfordshire can raise even more cash for Help for Heroes by getting extra volunteers on board and expanding the way money is raised.
County co-ordinator Mr Lewis got involved with Help for Heroes after working on the planes which evacuate fallen and injured servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said: “There are a ridiculous number of lads around the UK who have been badly injured and they are going to need help for the rest of their lives.
“At the moment we are not able to go to the number of events we would like because we have not got enough volunteers.”
Help for Heroes has raised £140m in its four-year existence, equating to about £400,000 in Oxfordshire each year.
The cash helps service personnel injured in conflicts.
Mr Lewis works on the Hercules fleet, which is based at RAF Brize Norton , and his team has been responsible for transporting injured and fallen service personnel over the past eight years.
In 2006 he suffered a back injury during training and was sent for treatment at Headley Court rehabilitation centre in Surrey.
There he saw the men and women he had evacuated from battles in Afghanistan and Iraq learning to walk again after losing limbs.
Mr Lewis said: “In the plane there would be an injured person on a stretcher next to you and you did not know if they were going to live or die. But then in Headley Way you would see them on a running machine.
“I would see these guys and think it was amazing what they had gone through. “It was eye-opening and very humbling and it spurred me to get involved.”
Mr Lewis organised the Malvern Challenge in 2009 to fundraise for Help for Heroes and last year’s event saw 150 people walk through the Malvern Hills.
The event has raised £32,000 for the charity in total.
Mr Lewis, who returned from Afghanistan on Saturday, now leads a team of 10 volunteers who attend events across Oxfordshire to raise money and awareness; visiting schools and groups to give talks.
The team also provides help and information for Oxfordshire fundraisers.
But many of the volunteers are, like Mr Lewis, service personnel and are often unavailable to attend events for months at a time due to work.
Mr Lewis, also a veteran of the first Gulf War, said: “It would be nice to get people with spare time, especially around Bicester and Banbury because we have no-one from that area at the moment.”
He said the volunteers had missed out on attending big events this year and hoped to attend festivals such as Cropredy and Cornbury next year.
Royal British Legion chairman Jim Lewendon said: “They are doing a wonderful job with the work they are doing and it is all for a good cause.
“The RBL and Help for Heroes work closely together and with both organisations it is not just today or tomorrow, it is about the rest of their lives.”
The group is looking to get as many committed volunteers on board as possible. To put yourself forward, contact Mr Lewis on 07793 058 457 or email@example.com