A Northampton landlord wants to help other military veterans struggling with returning to civilian life or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) just by talking to each other.
Marc Gausden has PTSD himself after six years in the army as a medic and believes other former soldiers can help each other in a way no one else can.
The landlord of The Queen Adelaide in Kingsthorpe is inviting current and former servicemen to his pub on the last Saturday of every month for a chat and refreshments, starting this weekend.
"As we're not getting the support we need, we should be doing what we did in the forces - and that's muck in and help each other," he said.
Marc joined the 20th Armoured Division as a combat medic in 2006 - he was primarily based in Germany but did two tours of Iraq and a tour of Afghanistan.
In 2010, the 33-year-old, of Kings Heath, lost three 'very close friends' he had known for more than 10 years before leaving the forces in 2012.
But it was not until this year that Marc was diagnosed with PTSD after suffering flashbacks while watching the Bonfire Night celebrations at the Racecourse.
"A firework went off and I was taken back immediately to Afghanistan to a roadside bomb incident I dealt with," he said.
"Now whenever I smell or hear fireworks or a car backfiring, I will flashback to Afghanistan vividly, with both auditory and visual hallucinations, so that can be very difficult."
Marc's experience of mental health support from the Ministry of Defence and the NHS has not been as fruitful as talking to other veterans who understand what he went through.
He says he and other ex-servicemen he has spoken to find it hard to explain what they went through or how they feel to people who have not been involved in combat.
"You do lose a part of yourself as you can't share that side of yourself with someone who doesn't understand," he said.
"While a lot of people can empathise, ex-forces aren't looking for empathy, they are looking for someone who's been there and can understand the fear and anger and constant worry you suffer.
"But at the same time it's not about giving judgement, which is what I felt when I went through the mental health services."
On Saturday (September 28), there will be food and hot drinks available from 11.30am at the Manor Road pub for veterans to talk or to just blow off some steam and watch the Rugby World Cup if they wish.
Marc said: "For me, it's a way of giving back to the community and giving each other some support.
"At the end of the day, if it allows someone a bit more freedom in being able to figure out how to help themselves or to get themselves back on track, I see it as a win."
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