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Emma and Bryn Parry have deep connections to the British military. Their son Tom is a second lieutenant, now serving in Afghanistan. Bryn Parry is a former soldier himself. So after the couple visited wounded British troops at a military hospital two years ago, they decided they had to do something. So they founded the charity Help for Heroes. In this installment of VOA's "Making a Difference" series, we introduce you to the Parrys and their charitable work.
The courage of wounded British soldiers, like Major Phil Packer, returning from Iraq and Afghanistan inspires Bryn and Emmy Parry.
"We understand that we can't prevent wars or stop people getting wounded, but what we can do, is by getting out there and doing our bike ride or climbing Kilimanjaro or whatever it is, raising money, then we can actually deliver practical support, and that makes us feel good," Bryn said.
An advertising campaign in a London newspaper helped to jump start Help for Heroes. All sorts of people from all walks of life responded by doing all sorts of things to raise money.
"We've had 80 - something year olds jump out of airplanes, completely mad. We've had people pulling a bus, you know really quite extreme nutty things, in fact the more extreme, the more they want to do it really," Emma said.
Even Australian film actor Hugh Jackman got involved, rapelling alongside a British Marine. The charity takes the money raised at such events and gives what its founders call great big lumps of money to other charities or to defense ministry projects to benefit wounded soldiers coming home.
In two years, the charity has raised the equivalent of $51 million.
Soldiers are training in Britain to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on a Help for Heroes expedition. The idea behind this and other projects is to help the wounded focus on what they can do.
"We want them to have the equipment, the mental equipment and facilities to then say right, 'Well I'm no longer a paratrooper, I'm no longer a Marine, but now I'm going to work in a bank, or I'm going to be a solicitor or I'm going to write a book,' whatever it is. And just move on into life and say, 'Well that was a great part of my life, I don't regret that, and now I'm looking forward to the future, and not look backwards,'" Bryn adds.
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The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are hotly contested in Britain, but the Parrys say they are determinedly apolitical.
"What we're trying to do is the best for the guys, so we may be irritating some politicians and we may have drawn attention to things that maybe some people might not have wanted us to draw to," Bryn says, "but I think there's now a realization that actually a force for good and this is harnessing a deeply held desire to help."
The Parrys say the biggest surprise is how much the wounded veterans are part of Help for Heroes. Major Phil Paker was told he would never walk again. But he's not only walked, he's rowed the English Channel, scaled mountains and completed the London Marathon. He's also raised $2 million -- helping Bryn and Emma Parry provide help for Britain's heroes.