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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 October 2007, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Poppy Man lends families a hand
By Daniel Boettcher
BBC News

Tina and Aidan Thompson with Poppy Man
Tina Thompson is angry she does not receive a full widow's pension
Standing in the middle of the room is a figure made of wire and poppies.

It is somewhat unnerving, but this is the focus for this year's Royal British Legion appeal.

Known as Poppy Man, he features in a series of posters - a symbol of the support given to those helped by the Royal British Legion.

One image is of Tina Thompson, 36, and her two-and-a-half-year-old son Aidan. It could be a typical family scene - a happy little boy swung in the air at the seaside.

But the other figure holding his hand is not his father but the Poppy Man.

'Taken aback'

Mick Thompson, a career soldier who had served in Iraq, Bosnia and Northern Ireland, was killed on his way to work at his base in Cyprus.

It should be Mick holding Aidan's hand and not the Poppy Appeal Man
Tina Thompson

Looking at the poster, his widow, Tina, thinks of what might have been.

"When I first saw it I was just taken aback," she admits.

"I was quite upset because I thought it should be Mick holding Aidan's hand and not the Poppy Appeal Man, but I just think it's a well-done picture."

Because Mick Thompson was not on duty when he died, his widow does not receive a full pension. The Legion is helping her fight that.

"We should have had a bit more support," Tina adds. "Mick gave 17 years of his life to the army.

"I know if he'd been around today he'd have been appalled at the way I'm being treated and having to fight with the MoD to try to get a full pension."

The MoD says it will not discuss individual cases.

But in a statement, a spokesman confirmed that "deaths occurring during normal travel between home and work are, as is usual practice in comparable civilian schemes, not usually accepted as being linked to service".

'Severely injured'

The money raised by the poppy appeal - 26m last year - helps around 60,000 people.

The demands on the services it provides are changing, with many more young men and women needing help.

In part that is due to the levels of deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A veteran at 22, you just don't think like that
Craig Lundberg

Craig "Freddie" Lundberg, 22, lost his sight when his platoon came under attack in Iraq in March.

"We were in a firefight on a roof just north of Basra and I was hit by two RPGs - Rocket Propelled Grenades - and severely injured," he recalls.

"When I came home, obviously I was in a hospital bed and couldn't really do a lot for myself, especially with my injuries.

"It was good to have people like the Legion, and some of the other agencies that came to help my mum and dad, to just take things out of their hands."

Over the past year alone there has been a 30% increase in the number of under-35s coming to the Legion for help.

"A lot of people don't know that the legion applies to them," Craig says. "I didn't."

"You know - a veteran at 22, you just don't think like that.

"It's good to know the legion are there and supporting younger people and people of my age group and older age groups."

Local soldier fronts poppy appeal
24 Oct 07 |  Merseyside

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