A FORMER Taunton Royal Marine discharged in 2011 due to spinal injuries from Afghanistan has been awarded the Inspiration of the Year Gold Award at the Welsh Veterans Awards 2024.

Richard “Dickie” Bennett lives with ongoing pain and complex PTSD.

Following a distressing experience abroad, he was referred to Tedworth House for rehab, where he got involved with Operation Nightingale, an archaeology project for veterans.

Passionate about history, Dickie visited the project with his daughter Mollie, also a history enthusiast.

Feeling detached from the military community after his discharge, joining the dig on Salisbury Plain marked a significant step for him.

There, Dickie and Mollie unearthed the grave of an Anglo-Saxon woman dating back to around 700 AD, which represented a pivotal moment for Dickie, steering him toward new aspirations.

He confided that it was his daughter's excitement that helped him overcome his reluctance to attend that day.

Dickie found his calling after participating in Operation Nightingale; in 2013 he chose to study for an undergraduate degree in Archaeology.

He realized the value of peer support during this period, prompting him to establish Breaking Ground Heritage, funded by his own pension.

The project aligned closely with Op Nightingale, delivering wellbeing assistance to veterans and providing essential support.

Following his undergraduate degree, Dickie pursued a Master's degree in Archaeology but soon discovered that his true interest lay in veteran wellbeing.

Consequently, he completed a Master of Research in Psychology to gain insight into the psychological transformations he and other veterans experienced.

Currently, Dickie is working towards a PhD in Heritage Wellbeing.

His academic achievements have come amidst challenges like chronic pain, severe PTSD, and progressive symptoms, yet his motivation remains unwavering.

He aims to extend his help to numerous veterans and people with mental health struggles, with his efforts increasingly impacting areas he never imagined possible.

Despite the personal costs he has faced due to his selflessness, and potentially will face, his commitment persists. Dickie pioneered the initial principles for interventions in heritage preservation and has emerged as an influential figure in the domain of heritage wellbeing.

His groundbreaking research began to decipher how initiatives can enhance wellbeing, a topic he is further investigating through his doctoral studies.

Lately, Dickie has been instrumental in assisting emergency services in crafting their wellbeing initiatives, benefiting their personnel, including numerous veterans.

A frequent presenter at well-being conferences, Dickie offers guidance to projects on a global scale.

His tenacity and unwavering resolve have significantly influenced operational approaches within the heritage wellbeing industry.

Dickie is known for his incredible humility and worthiness. He established Breaking Ground Heritage with funds from his war pension, and he consistently prioritizes the wellbeing of others while seeking no recognition for himself, content to see his hard work benefit those around him.

Despite increasingly severe chronic pain, he perseveres with the resilience characteristic of a Bootneck, forging ahead without yielding to discouragement.

With his physical career options now limited, Dickie has resourcefully shifted his focus toward academic endeavors.

Although he didn't excel academically in his early years, he has since achieved a first-class degree in Archaeology, a Master’s in Archaeology with Merit, a Master of Research in Psychology with Distinction, and is currently pursuing a PhD.

Additionally, he contributes to the Royal Air Forces Association by helping to promote member wellbeing.

Dickie holds positions as a special advisor to the Chartered Institute of Archaeologists board and membership, is a Fellow of the Society for Antiquities, and is an associate Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute.

Yet, when asked, Dickie considers his most significant accomplishment to be inspiring others to find hope amidst adversity.