Soldiers team up with Leicester City to launch Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal for 2012
Five young veterans of the war in Afghanistan joined some of their Leicester City football heroes yesterdayto launch the county's Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal for 2012.
The soldiers, who between them have undertaken seven tours of the war-torn country, joined city stars Lloyd Dyer and Matty James and City ambassador Alan Birchenall at the King Power stadium.
The Leicestershire and Rutland branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL) is hoping to top the £526,000 raised last year.
One of the biggest fund-raising events will be at the Remembrance Day fixture at the King Power stadium on Saturday, November 10 against city's local rivals Nottingham Forest.
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Giles Coleman, the RBL branch's community fund-raiser, said that Leicester City's Remembrance Day fixture last year raised £18,000 and was second only to Liverpool's total of £20,000. Mr Coleman said: "Since the first Gulf War in 1991, 30,000 servicemen have been wounded, many of whom have needed our help at some stage.
"We spend an average of £720 on every welfare case we deal with and there are currently about 300 of those cases in Leicestershire and Rutland.
"People are very generous at Poppy Appeal time. Nationally, we are looking to raise £40 million and I would hope to get close to the £600,000 mark locally."
This year's Remembrance Day fixture at the King Power stadium will see a parade of veterans around the pitch marching to the RBL county pipe band.
Players will wear special commemorative T-shirts in the warm-up and match shirts specially embroidered with poppies will be auctioned off to raise funds for the Poppy Appeal. Last year, the shirts raised between £200 and £700 each. There will also be a bucket collection at the game.
The match ball, which will be delivered by helicopter, will also be auctioned.
Lance Corporal Darren Bates, 25, of Syston, of the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment, who has just completed his third tour of Afghanistan, and helped with the launch, said: "I don't think people realise how many young soldiers have lost limbs or are suffering mental problems through the Afghanistan conflict.
"Being involved in the poppy launch is important because you never know when you might need the Royal British Legion yourself."
The other veterans at the launch were Guardsman Matthew Sinkinson, Private Josh Seville, Private Billy Jones and Private Ian Newstead.
Midfielder Matty James said: "My cousin has just enlisted and I know my mum was a bit upset. They make a big thing of Remembrance Day here at Leicester and I'm looking forward to being part of it."
The Birch said: "We are all indebted to our young men and women for the work they are doing out there for their country. We're proud to be involved with the Poppy Appeal."