Tom Rooney, 59, has always had the military in his blood. Tom, who lives in Tarves, Aberdeenshire, comes from a long line of family members who served their country. Tom’s dad was a survivor of Gloster Hill during the Korean War and his Granddad fought in the Boer War and the First World War.

“When I turned 16 I was ready to join the Army. I had a good job as an apprentice joiner but there was no doubt in my mind – I was going to give it up and join the Army,” he says.

Tom joined the Royal Artillary in 1970 as a boy soldier and worked his way up through the ranks. When he was discharged in 1994 he had reached the rank of Royal Artillary Warrant Officer Class 2 (QMS (AC)).

During the 24 years he served, Tom, who lives with his wife and has three children, did six tours of Northern Ireland, was in the Falklands during the war and also served in the UK, Germany, Cyprus, Canada, Holland and Belguim. In the mid 80’s he was based in Maastricht as part of the Second Allied Tactical Airforce, a NATO formation.

He remembers:

“It was a pretty weird experience as we worked in the caves so it was always dark. The caves were 12 miles long and the emergency exit would take you in to the canal. It was a real highlight of my service as you got to see the full picture of what was going on. It was a huge operation and just fascinating.”

Tom’s last job in the Army was based back in the UK where he worked with big business employers to recruit ex-service men and women who wanted to settle in Scotland. He worked with businesses such as John Menzies, Marks and Spencers and the Wood Group.

Tom says:

“It was the early nineties and the Army was beginning to downsize. There were more and more people leaving the Army and looking for employment. We took roadshows around the UK and Europe and talked to service men and women about finding jobs and what the options were for them.”

Tom enjoyed the job and after leaving the Army he was able to use these skills when he joined his local Legion branch in New Pitsligo.

 “Young men and women leaving the military in their 20s have higher priorities than joining the Legion such as jobs and housing but they need to know that we can also help them with these things and be there for them if they require a listening ear.”

Tom believes that charities like Legion Scotland should be targeting young people as soon as they enter the services.

“We should be at the forefront of their minds from the beginning”, he says.

As part of the the charity’s outreach work Tom visits the local primary school in New Pitsligo each year to talk about the Legion during remembrance week. He takes the children to the local memorial and parades the legions colours.

“I think it’s important that young people have a basic understanding about the military. Some young people have family members who are currently serving or they have grandparents or great-grand parents who have served,” he says.

Tom also sat on the Legion's National Board of Trustees.

“I do miss the Army, he says, “If I was 16 again I would go back in. I have no regrets – once a soldier always a soldier. The Legion is the nearest thing to the Army. It has the same ethos, camaraderie and social aspects. I still get a real buzz from being involved.”