A ROYAL Navy veteran from Hampshire traumatised by his service has praised a national charity for helping him return to employment.

Chris O’Donnell, of Bishop’s Waltham, is one of the veterans who were part of The Poppy Factory’s ‘Getting You Back to Work’ programme.

It recently celebrated the milestone of helping 1,000 wounded, injured and sick veterans, with a reception attended by Chris and the Duchess of Cornwall.

He developed post-traumatic stress disorder after his service in the Royal Navy.

Chris said: “I spent 15 years in the Royal Navy and received the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct. I didn’t feel like I deserved it though, as my act of bravery was overshadowed by an empty feeling of failure.

“I was young and I had never seen a dead body before or even attended a funeral. I remember pulling dead bodies from the sea and the one that I left behind haunted me.”

Chris added: “After leaving the Navy, I started to wonder whether I had made the right decision, and although I did not know it at the time, I was suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder.”

The veteran received mental health treatment in Chicago but decided it made him feel “more vulnerable than before.”

Chris then returned to the UK and was introduced to Rachel from The Poppy Factory.

He said: “Rachel provided the support that I had been missing. Together we were able to explore the things that I wanted to do.

“We looked for opportunities in areas that interested me and I was keen to experience life in a different way.”

Chris now works as a quality assurance engineer at Siemens, based in London.

He said: “I enjoy it and I feel like I am giving to society rather than taking.”