Leroy Francis

When Leroy left the RAF after a service of 28 years, he had no idea his life was about to be turned upside down with a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.

Leroy Francis

When Leroy left the RAF after a service of 28 years, he had no idea his life was about to be turned upside down with a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.

Leroy joined the Air Force in October 1980 as a Weapon Systems Engineer. He served all over the world – America, Belize, Germany, across Europe, Iraq, Kuwait and Turkey:

I absolutely enjoyed every second of it –it’s been an absolute honour and a pleasure to have served in Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force. Being a serviceman, it takes over your entire life. It’s quite an honourable situation to have been in.

“While I was in the RAF, I started to experience some discomfort in my right side of my body. I put it down to nothing – I served a full career with very little or no problem at all.

“Since I left in 2010, I was diagnosed with MS. I had a course of treatment and was off work for five months, but I was okay.

“Then in March 2019, I had a severe relapse. It affected my mobility significantly and I am still recovering now. It’s been a hard, long road –and I’ve got to be very grateful for SSAFA and the RAF Benevolent Fund working hard to support me through.”

I asked them to trust me

When his health deteriorated, Leroy called his local SSAFA branch for help with his rehabilitation, and was introduced to Kathy Munslow, his caseworker. Kathy spoke to him and his wife Sharon and recognised that they needed a wet room and stairlift to make Leroy’s quality of life better. She was determined that Leroy and his family would have the help they needed:

“Leroy had applied for a Disability Facility Grant through the Royal Air Force. He had to go through them before he could apply for any funding through SSAFA. Without that paperwork to say whether he would receive a grant, we couldn’t move forward, and they hadn’t heard anything back after months.

“Sharon was so desperate to get Leroy help that she was in tears, saying she would try and find a way to pay for everything herself. But they would not have been able to afford it all.

“I asked them to trust me, and to give me a week to get them the help.”

Kathy phoned local contacts persistently and made sure she got the paperwork within a matter of days. Then when it arrived she immediately put in an application for funding with the RAF Benevolent Fund. Within two working days the RAFBF paid for an occupational therapist to attend and assess Leroy’s home and organise and pay for a wet room, stairlift, and a specialist chair and bed to be fitted. They also paid towards his care.

Kathy, a caseworker of 38 years, was ecstatic to have made such a difference:

“Afterwards once I knew what we’d done and achieved, I went to see the family again, and we all sat and cried. Sharon cried and I cried, because we did it all within two weeks. We cracked the system within two weeks. And its been quite a journey.”

My wife has suffered just as much as I have…thank you for supporting us through this very difficult episode

Leroy is grateful for the support provided and says it has made a huge difference to his lifestyle. But he is particularly grateful for the hope given to his wife and family.

As an ex-serviceman, I don’t dwell on situations. I’ve had to adapt and overcome and work with my current condition and continue to improve as I go along. But when my condition deteriorated, it had a real detrimental effect on my entire family and network of friends, my wife has suffered just as much as I have.

“It has been quite a challenging experience for us both – we’ve had to work really hard to overcome these issues. 

“SSAFA and Kathy I wholeheartedly thank you on behalf of myself and my wife, after everything you have done to support us through this very difficult episode of our lives. We are totally indebted to you.

“Thank you very much – it’s been quite an incredible service provided. It is a service second to none – absolutely incredible, thank you.”

Thinking Bigger

Kathy’s support for Leroy has gone beyond the practical. Aware that having a disability can often be an isolating experience, she organised for Leroy to attend the Tri Services Centre, a local charity for those serving, or who have served, where meet ups and social events are held. They collaborate closely with the local SSAFA division, house spaces where SSAFA casework is carried out and even share volunteers to ensure people get help quickly when they are in need.  

The Centre has given Leroy a new social scene where he can relive his military experiences:

“It is good to come down and interact with other ex-serving personnel. It’s been excellent. It’s a really, good opportunity to get out the house and liaise with ex-military colleagues.”

Leroy is one of hundreds of people Kathy has helped during her time as a volunteer:

I've been a caseworker for a long time, and we fight a lot of battles, and we win a lot and we lose some. But I have always totally and utterly believed in SSAFA and I know the incredible work we do. And I take it as an absolute privilege to be a caseworker and I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

“Do you know what, if we could just help one person, turn somebody’s life around, that’s what it’s about isn’t it? That’s who we are. And I always say, if you’re going to do it, do it properly – don’t half do it, do it. That’s what we did.”