Horncastle veteran inspires England manager Gareth Southgate

A Horncastle veteran has inspired England manager Gareth Southgate, who has been unveiled as the patron of a vital charity.

Army veteran Tom Folwell with England manager Gareth Southgate.
Army veteran Tom Folwell with England manager Gareth Southgate.

Army veteran Tom Folwell, who was badly wounded in Afghanistan, has met Help for Heroes’ latest signing, England manager Gareth Southgate, who has been announced as its new Patron.

Ahead of flying out to Qatar with his World Cup squad, he met with veterans who’ve been supported by Help for Heroes and pledged his support to the military charity.

Tom, 37, shared his story with Gareth Southgate and about how Help for Heroes is helping him live well after service.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 28: Gareth Southgate is announced as a celebrity patron for Help for Heroes on October 28, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/Getty Images for Help for Heroes)

The former sapper was on a routine foot patrol in Helmand Province when he lost both his legs and four fingers on his left hand after an IED (improvised explosive device) blast.

At the Invictus Games in The Hague this year, he captained Team UK’s Wheelchair Rugby and Basketball squads as well as competing in Sitting Volleyball.

Tom said: “Gareth will bring to Help for Heroes his immense experience in management. I think he will really understand how soldiers feel when they suffer life changing injuries with all his football experience.

"Military careers can end overnight just like those of footballers.”

Gareth, whose grandfather served during the Second World War, has spoken of his close ties and affinity with the Armed Forces.

Speaking on his new role, Gareth said: “My sense of identity and values is closely tied to my family and particularly my grandad. He was a fierce patriot and a proud military man, who served during World War II.

"Because of him, I’ve always had an affinity for the military and service in the name of your country.

“Both footballers and service personnel can find their careers cut short due to injury, a prospect which can affect them not only physically but and mentally too.

"The inability to function or perform in the same way after injury can often cause significant mental challenges, loss of identity and impact their prospects.”

He added: “I’m looking forward to working closely with Help for Heroes to support veterans and raise awareness of the great work they do to promote veterans living well after service.”

Help for Heroes has been supporting members of the Armed Forces community for 15 years, in that time the military charity has helped over 27,000 veterans and their families.

James Needham, Help for Heroes’ interim chief executive, added: “To have such a high-profile figure as Gareth Southgate supporting Help for Heroes is fantastic. It will help us to raise the profile of Sensitivity: Operational the work we do right across the charity - from our mental health and physical support to tackling isolation and championing our community’s welfare needs.”