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A FORMER Royal Navy commander has spent 15 years volunteering with ex-servicemen and women.

Mike Emary, 74, of South Lynn Drive, Eastbourne, was in the Royal Navy for 34 years before working for the Royal British Legion (RBL) organising welfare case volunteers.

After retiring in 1999 he continued to work with the RBL as a volunteer and also began volunteering for The Officers’ Association (OA). Since then he has spent up to nine hours a week supporting ex-officers and their families.

Mr Emary said: “When I hear a client’s quality of life has been enhanced through receiving a scooter or getting help with their gardening I get a warm, fuzzy feeling.”

Visits to OA beneficiaries take him as far as Newhaven, Lewes and Pevensey. He acts as the “eyes and ears for the charity”, gathering information and carrying out needs assessments.

He said: “The clients vary from young lads who come out of the army and find themselves homeless to elderly people in wheelchairs.

“Often the presenting problem is the tip of the iceberg.

“You might go to someone’s home because they don’t have any food and it turns out they aren’t receiving benefits or need help maintaining the house.”

Mr Emary works closely with other charities, sometimes steering clients towards other organisations such as Age Concern.

He said: “I try to ensure people are included in their communities.

“People without much family support can suffer from loneliness.”

Mike added that he gets just as much from the “reciprocal relationship” as his clients and that with a shared military background there is often a shared history.

He said: “It doesn’t matter what colour uniform you once wore, you’ll find the same ethos is there – what should be a 15-minute interview often spins out to an hour as you reminisce on stories of far-flung countries where you served.

“What I’d like to do is recruit some replacements. You need somebody who still has energy – but I’ll keep on doing it for as long as I can.”