More than 70 veterans and their families gathered to celebrate the phenomenal success of Leyland’s Veterans’ Café first birthday.
A short service was held outside the café at Rococco coffee shop, Chapel Brow, with veterans Alan Burgess and Trevor Burton reading out a prayer and the Ode of Remembrance on Saturday.
Bugler Nichola Gates, from Lostock Hall Brass Band, sounded the last post, with a minute’s silence held for those who fought and died for their country.
The party then enjoyed a birthday cake made especially for the occasion by Keiran O’Neill and service users at Brothers of Charity.
“When we first started this 12 months ago I never thought we’d be where we are now,” said founder Phil Burton, 42, a former Royal Artillery lance bombardier and dad-of-three from Leyland.
“The amount of people’s lives we’ve changed is phenomenal. We’ve got veterans back into employment and we’ve got people the mental health support they need and deserve.
“But for me, the best thing is just seeing the smile on people’s faces. This café brings us back to our roots and makes us feel that we are somebody again. We are veterans, we are a family.”
Phil set up the cafe to help others after struggling with symptoms of PTSD when he came out of the army.
The idea was to create a place for veterans to meet up every fortnight and enjoy a chat over a bacon butty and a brew.
The café at Rococco helps veterans to overcome social isolation by allowing them to meet different people and by sparking new friendships.
. Some have also been able to access services from charities and the NHS that they were unaware of.
Over the last 12 months Phil has received countless awards – including a Point of Light Award from Prime Minister Theresa May as part of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.
Other successes include re-uniting long-lost family members after the café featured on ITV Granada Reports, and helping six veterans back into employment.
The Veterans’ Café is sponsored by BAE Systems and supported by South Ribble Borough Council.
South Ribble Borough Council leader councillor Peter Mullineaux said: “It’s very clear that there was a need for something like this. We must not forget these brave men and women and the sacrifices they have made for their country.”
Alex Moore, communications director at BAE Systems, said: “The Veterans’ Café provides a fantastic service to our local heroes and helps ensure they receive the support they undoubtedly deserve.”
South Ribble Borough Council signed the Armed Forces Community Covenant in November 2012, promising a commitment to help veterans and those currently serving in the military with their family life, housing, health, skills and employment.
The Veterans’ Café runs on the first and third Saturdays of every month, 10am to 1pm, at Roccoco, Chapel Brow, Leyland.