A former soldier has turned his life around after getting mixed up in kidnapping for a gang and serving an 11-year prison term. Now, he’s helping other veterans stay off the streets, hoping to keep people from making the same mistakes he made.
“I was in a bad way,” Darren Wright told The Manchester Evening News. “I didn’t want to live. I just didn’t care about life.”
That’s how it felt after Darren left the military and returned to civilian life.
“When I joined, the army became my family. When you leave you miss all that,” he said.
Darren had joined the army to “get a better life” for himself and his kids, but he was unprepared for the challenges that lay ahead.
“I tried taking my own life and spent three months in a wheelchair,” he said. “I threw myself in front of a car.”
He started self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, grew distant from family, and soon became involved in a criminal lifestyle.
It’s a spiral Darren calls “common,” wherein former army veterans become recruited by gangs. Particularly for those whose heads aren’t in the right place after returning home with PTSD and other adjustment issues, the offer can be tempting.
For Darren, the spiral lasted two years.
“I did that for two years. Two years not being a parent, two years wanting to die,” he said.
However, when a gang job went awry, Darren was caught and convicted of kidnapping. He spent the next 11 years in prison, where he got sober and committed to turning his life around.
According to the veteran, prison saved his life.
“I would not be talking to you now if I had not got a custodial sentence,” he said. “It was in prison that I got the help I needed, and the support.”
During his sentence, Darren was diagnosed with PTSD. He feels that if he’d been diagnosed before returning to civilian life, all of this could’ve been avoided.
“I wouldn’t have ended up in prison, my kids wouldn’t have grown up without a dad. Instead, I was left to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs,” he says, adding that he feels deep remorse for the distress he caused to others by living a life of crime.
“I wasn’t mentally right,” he added. “It is a shame that I had to commit a crime and get sent to prison to get correctly diagnosed from suffering from PTSD. If only the MOD took better care of the individuals who fight for their country.”
In the UK, an estimated 50,000 military veterans struggle with mental illness, and thousands are on the streets or in prison, reported iNews.
Veterans returning from deployments in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan often suffer from PTSD or other traumatic brain injuries, which directly contribute to the risk of becoming homeless.
“You never see a homeless former officer on the streets,” Darren told The Manchester Evening News. “It is the kid from a council estate and a disadvantaged background who joined the army, did five years, served his country as a perfect foot soldier, and leaves with no support. They are the ones that end up on the street, in prison, or take their own life.”
It’s an experience Darren is all too familiar with; not only because of his own obstacles but also those of his military friends, as well. Before Darren’s struggle began, a close friend, Sergeant Jamie Doyle, had taken his own life after 22 years of service. Like so many others, Jamie failed to reacclimate to society and couldn’t cope with the aftereffects of serving.
That’s why Darren took it upon himself to help other army veterans and steer them onto the right path after returning from deployment.
The organization he conceived, Veterans Into Logistics, aims to provide support, training, and employment aid to veterans while they reintegrate into their former lives.
Darren hopes his efforts will not only aid other veterans but also honor the memory of those who sacrificed so much for their country—those like Jamie.
“Jamie’s memory will lead the way in supporting ex-military personnel to begin new careers,” Darren told the local publication. “I wish he was here to see the positive impact that Veterans into Logistics will have on veterans and their lives.”
If you or a veteran you know are struggling with PTSD or other mental health issues, please reach out to Veterans Into Logistics for support by clicking here.
For those struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately. U.S.: 1-800-273-8255 UK: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90.