Launchpad veteran Patrick Sargeson at Avondale House

Patrick Sargeson tells a lively story peppered with detail.  Born in 1975, he grew up in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.  He enjoyed an early passion for the outdoors:  much of his youth was spent around rivers, fishing and relishing adventure.  At school, he was adept at cross-country while being a sergeant in the Army Cadets.  He had a competitive streak, representing Derbyshire in the javelin and triple jump.

From an early age, he knew he wanted to join the Army.

“As soon as I was old enough, I wanted to come into training. I was a Sergeant in the Army Cadet Force so I had a lot of experience to do with marching and leading others and using my initiative.  I enjoyed everything about it,” Patrick said.

Patrick enjoying the company of his parents the night before his enlistment

In June 1992, just two weeks after completing his GCSEs, Patrick enlisted in Gamecock Barracks in Nuneaton into the Junior Leaders’ Regiment, Royal Artillery.  The transition to military life, however, proved challenging. P atrick found it difficult to adapt to his new role as a soldier but he persevered.

“The training sergeants, the corporals saw the effort that I put into my training and the soldier that I became – I think I had a lot of potential as a young soldier,” Patrick reflected.

Patrick still keeps his ‘Most Improved Junior Leader’ trophy, which he received at his first passing-out parade back in 1992.

After six months of basic military training, Patrick surprised his parents when he stepped out of the passing-out parade to salute the General taking the parade.  He was presented a trophy for being the ‘Most Improved Junior Leader’ in his battery.  He has kept this momento for the last 25 years.  Patrick moved on to the Woolwich for the next stage of his training before being posted to Larkhill.

After four years, however, he found it increasingly difficult to continue.

“I started falling off the wagon, started drinking and started getting involved with other people – not the right kind of people.  I stopped going home and started staying in the camp a lot more,” he recalled.

Patrick submitted his notice and left the Army in 1995.  His first job was at a restaurant in Bournemouth, before moving to live with his girlfriend at their new home in Salisbury.  Over the next 11 years finding regular employment proved difficult.  Then Patrick moved to Malaga, Spain to live with his family before returning to the UK in December 2014.

“I found myself in a situation in London where I had ran out of funds and everything, and I was just homeless,” Patrick said.

His life took a hopeful turn when he got in touch SSAFA, which contacted Launchpad on his behalf.  After a phone call with Ken McMillan MBE, Launchpad’s co-founder, Patrick moved to Avondale House in January 2015.

“When I got here, I got introduced to what was available and I got involved straight away.  I volunteered with the Byker Community Trust and painted the drop-in centre of St Michael’s Church. I  wanted to be an asset to the community rather than a nuisance,” Patrick said.

Patrick meets Prince Harry when he visited Avondale House in February 2016. Footage can be viewed at [Source: BBC, 2016]

To increase his employability, Patrick has undergone courses with Finchale College (an independent charity based in Durham) funded by the Royal British Legion.  He has successfully completed courses on asbestos awareness and street works, and obtained his Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card in 2016.  He hopes that his new skills will translate into gainful employment in the near future.

Looking ahead, Patrick is optimistic: “I’m looking to move on, to get a job and a place of my own and to concentrate on my life.”