The Archbishop of York is set to take the ultimate "leap of faith" to raise money for the families of soldiers killed or injured in Afghanistan.
Dr John Sentamu will hurl himself from a plane at 12,500ft with the Parachute Regiment Red Devils display team from RAF Langer near Nottingham in six weeks time on May 27 2008.
The Archbishop is urging the public to sponsor him to complete the daring parachute jump to generate funds for the Afghanistan Trust - a charity formed in 15 March 2007 to help support soldiers and their families who have served with 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan, and who have been wounded or killed as a consequence.
Dr Sentamu will jump in tandem with businessman Guy Brudenell, who brought the plight of bereaved families to his attention at a special dinner.
"The armed services and their families in this country make enormous sacrifices on our behalf," the Archbishop said. "There are regiments in Yorkshire and across the country who are making a huge contribution in helping to rebuild Afghanistan and to defeat the Taliban."
"Unfortunately many of the families who have lost loved ones in the conflict are not being given enough financial support, and for those who return home as wounded heroes, the support can be a long time coming and then not nearly enough."
"My prayers have been with the brave men and women who do this dangerous but vital work in our name. But I also wanted to do something more to help their plight.
"This will be my first parachute jump and I'm excited at the prospect. I hope that many people will get behind the appeal and show their appreciation for the amazing sacrifice our armed forces and their families have made.
"I hope to raise at least 50,000 pounds through this 'leap of faith'. Please support me by making a donation to the Afghanistan Trust."
Capt. Sarah Freeman, one of the Charity's Trustees, who is currently serving in Afghanistan as part of 3 Para, said: "We were over the moon to learn of the Archbishop's support and his fundraising efforts. This money makes a vital difference to those who serve and their families in times of difficulty. We are enormously grateful for all the Archbishop's efforts on our behalf."
Guy Brudenell, a successful Yorkshire businessman, has many friends in the armed forces after being sponsored through university by the 14/20th Kings Hussars on a three-year short service commission basis.
Mr. Brudenell said: "I was invited to a fundraising and awareness lunch in the Guildhall in London last year for the Afghanistan Trust where a presentation was made to the wife of Corporal Budd who was killed in action and was awarded the Victoria Cross – our highest award for bravery in the British Armed Forces.
"Sadly the compensation she has received since his death does not, we feel, match the sacrifice he has made. This is one example of many. I met the Archbishop at a dinner to raise awareness for his Academy in Hull, and was telling him about the plight of these families and the failure of the government to provide adequate support to the relatives left behind – and he said – "I can raise the profile of this cause – I will jump with you!""
Individuals, businesses or groups can sponsor the Archbishop by sending cheques to The Afghanistan Trust, 3 PARA, Hyderabad Barracks, Mersea Road, Colchester, Essex, CO2 7TB.
The Afghanistan Trust charitable status in November 2007, (registered charity number is 1121647) and since then has made donations of approximately £15,000 to injured soldiers to help with mobility vehicles, to help provide accommodation for the families of those killed to attend remembrance services and also to help with transport costs for the families of those who have been seriously injured.
Its charitable objects are:
1. The relief in need of soldiers of the Battalion injured in Afghanistan and families of soldiers of the Battalion killed or injured in Afghanistan by the provision of welfare services, support and financial assistance and such other charitable means as the trustees see fit.
2. To promote the military efficiency of the Battalion by sustaining the memories of the loss of life and sacrifices made by the soldiers of the Battalion in Afghanistan by such charitable means as the trustees see fit.
As the Battalion deploys for a second operational tour in Afghanistan the need for the fund will continue to grow as more soldiers are wounded or killed.
Media enquiries relating to the Trust should be directed to:
Capt. Sarah Freeman, The Afghanistan Trust, 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, Hyderabad Barracks, Mersea Road, COLCHESTER, Essex CO2 7TB or email: [email protected]