Local troops from A Company, Second Battalion, The Royal Welsh, visited the Llandarcy Academy of Sport in the run up to the Ospreys 'Help for Heroes' charity match against Connacht.
Captain James Walters, WO2 Neil Herbert, Sergeant Steven Harris and Lance Corporal Peter Wells from Swansea, along with Corporal Ryan Cheeseman from Neath, were invited by the Ospreys to come along to the Club’s training ground to meet the players ahead of the important Magners League fixture on 21st February, where they and other members of their Battalion will be attending as guests of honour.
The Battalion, known as the ‘Welsh Warriors’, will be collecting for Help for Heroes at the game, ahead of the 5pm kick off. The Ospreys have also committed to allowing all servicemen and women with a valid warrant card into the fixture free of charge.
The troops, who returned from Afghanistan less than a week ago, spoke to the players and coaching staff about their time and experiences overseas, what they missed most about being away from home – and whether they got to keep up-to-date with the rugby. Here are some of their thoughts:
WO2 Neil Herbert said: “After being in the army for 22 years, I’m used to going away for months at a time now. I’ve visited some incredible places during my time in the services, including Kenya, Hong Kong and Canada to name but a few. However, it’s always hard to leave your family and friends, I have three boys aged between 10 and 17, and it’s great to see them when I’m home.”
Corporal Ryan Cheeseman said: “I miss the routine of being back home, when we’re not away we’re based at Tidmouth which is around two hours drive away. It’s great to be able to come back and see family and friends every weekend. I’m used to doing the tours abroad now, it tends to be first timers and younger soldiers that struggle with being away from home, but you get used to it.”
Captain James Walters said: “I’ve had a tough 18 months with two tours so I’m pleased to be back in Wales with family and friends. Of course everyone misses home when they are away – I even found myself missing the rain after six dry months – but at the end of the day we all know it’s part of our job and responsibility to go to Afghanistan amongst other places so it’s just a way of life for us now.”
Sergeant Steven Harris said: “I have a six year old son and a 13 year old daughter and I miss them when I’m away. I’ve been all over the world during my time in the army, from Hawaii to Malaysia to Singapore, but nothing compares to seeing your family. I used to be a fairly keen rugby player myself, so it’s been great to come and see the Ospreys today and get a look in to their day-to-day lives, and I’m looking forward to the Help for Heroes match on the 21st.”
Lance Corporal Peter Wells said: “We do get to watch some rugby when we’re away, particularly the internationals. When we’re at FOB (forward operating base) Minden in the Helmand Valley, we have access to a TV and DVD equipment, so if we’re lucky someone at home will have recorded some rugby and we’ll all watch it together. As there’s a mix of Welsh, English and Fijian amongst others its always a good atmosphere.”
Tickets for the match are now on sale at the Liberty Stadium Ticket Office, online or via the Ticket Hotline on 08700 400 004.
Remember, for this game only, there is a special promotion running in conjunction with the South Wales Evening Post, allowing a family of four to see the match for just £20. To take advantage of the offer, all you need to do is look out for the special coupon in the paper this week and present it at the Ticket Office when purchasing your family ticket.