A FORMER Llandybie soldier is urging people to support a Channel Islands charity providing free holidays to exservicemen and their families.

Paul Hooper, of Blaenau Road, spent nearly 18 years with the Royal Artillery before retiring in the 1990s.

Since then, the 54- year-old – now a bus driver – has battled Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and, like many ex-soldiers, feared he faced his toughest fight alone.

However, Paul’s wife Teresa contacted support group Combat Stress and now, thanks to the group, the couple have just returned from a fabulous allexpenses paid trip to Jersey, courtesy of Holidays for Heroes.

“Eddie Evans, The Combat Stress representative, asked when was the last time Teresa and I had had a holiday,’ said Paul.

“When I said about eight years he put us in touch with the British Legion who arranged a ‘Poppy Holiday’ to Jersey.

“We were taken to a fabulous hotel near St Helier with about 35 families from all over the UK, including couples from Neath and Porthcawl.”

The charity was set up in 2008 by husband and wife team Richard and Dawn Woodhouse to provide idyllic breaks for former and serving UK troops “injured in mind or body on active duty”.

“The holiday was great and the everyone we met was so kind and generous,” said Paul.

“Jersey was occupied during the Second world War and the people there have never forgotten that British Forces helped liberate them from the Nazis.

“They are still incredibly grateful and they could not do enough for us.

“The Jersey Harley Davidson Motorcycle Club took us out on the backs of their bikes and we were visited by the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey. He spoke to every family individually.

“We had a great time – it was fabulous.”

Now back home, Paul was stunned to learn that each year the islanders raise £220,000 to cover the charity’s expenses. He is urging people to lend their support.

“I just think it is incredible that the people of Jersey do this for us,” he said.

“I would love to help by raising a few pounds in Wales so they can continue their fantastic work.”

● For more information on the charity visit h4hjersey.org.je