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Dame Vera Lynn & Hayley Westenra launch Poppy Appeal for Afghan generation

Dame Vera Lynn & Hayley Westenra launch Poppy Appeal for Afghan generation

Forces sweethearts from yesterday and today joined hands to launch the 2009 Poppy Appeal in support of the Afghan generation of Armed Forces wounded and bereaved. Dame Vera Lynn, the original Second World War Forces sweetheart who is once again at the top of the British charts, was joined by Kiwi songbird Hayley Westenra in launching the Poppy Appeal with a fundraising goal of £31 million

22 October 2009

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Image courtesy of The Royal British Legion

Forces sweethearts from yesterday and today joined hands to launch the 2009 Poppy Appeal in support of the Afghan generation of Armed Forces wounded and bereaved.

Dame Vera Lynn, the original Second World War Forces sweetheart who is once again at the top of the British charts, was joined by Kiwi songbird Hayley Westenra in launching the Poppy Appeal with a fundraising goal of £31 million.

Launching the campaign in a colourful ceremony from London's Horse Guards Parade, well known venue for the annual Trooping the Colour, Dame Vera was joined by the Regimental Band of the Irish Guards and members of the Queen's Life Guards in full state ceremonial regalia.

My songs were very popular when the boys were away, and now the boys are away again and my songs are popular again," said Dame Vera, 92. "I hope the British public support the Poppy Appeal and for their sake, please wear a poppy."

"The Royal British Legion is the leading UK charity providing direct, practical support for our wounded heroes and bereaved Armed Forces families," said the Legion's Director of National Events and Fundraising, Russell Thompson OBE. " The past 12 months of bloody conflict have increased the need for our help both today and for years to come."

Since 2003, the Legion provided financial help to 10,000 Service personnel and recent veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. "We represented one-third of all the appeals for higher compensation payments for injuries suffered in Afghanistan," Mr Thompson said. "And, our campaigns have led to increased compensation awards which have placed an extra £7.5 million in the pockets of the most seriously injured."

The Legion currently spends more than a £1 million a week in its work helping over 130,000 other members of the Armed Forces Family – dependents, veterans and the bereaved.  This year it hopes to extend its reach more than 160,000 beneficiaries.  "In order to fund this work we would like this year’'s Poppy Appeal to equal last year's record total of £31 million," Mr Thompson said.

The Royal British Legion's 2009 Poppy Appeal targets support for the wounded and bereaved of Afghanistan with a sobering poster campaign featuring a young war widow and a Royal Marine double amputee, both of them attending the Appeal launch.

Using the motto, 'For their sake, wear a poppy', the Poppy Appeal poster campaign also for the first time features a coffin being repatriated from Afghanistan.

The Poppy Appeal posters feature Elizabeth Cross widow Hester Wright, 22, of Mansfield, Notts and her six-year-old son, Josh. She lost her husband, Drummer Damian Wright of 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcester and Foresters) in an improvised explosion in Afghanistan in 2007, and she has since received Legion assistance.

The poster campaign also shows Lance Corporal Peter Dunning, 24, of the Armoured Support Group Royal Marines, who lost both legs when the vehicle he was travelling in went over a makeshift mine in Helmand province in May 2008. Originally from Wallasey, Merseyside, he is still serving and is based at RNAS Yeovilton; the Legion has provided him with aids to daily living.

"Nothing can replace the loss of Damian," said Mrs Wright. "But knowing that the Legion has been there to offer comfort and support has been a great help.

"For Josh's sake, wear a poppy."

Royal British Legion