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Why I'm running a marathon for the RAF Benevolent Fund

Lee Cunliffe, a former RAF dog handler, is running his first marathon this year to raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund. Lee tells us more.

I've never run a marathon before, but I’m in training for the Edinburgh Marathon this year to raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund.

Lee Cunliffe in training for the Edinburgh MarathonI joined the RAF in 1998, and was stationed at RAF Halton, where I qualified as a dog handler. My daughter was born a year later, and then in 2000 I was sent on detachment to the Falkland Islands.

In 2001 my wife became pregnant with our second child and we were also posted to Cyprus. But sadly we lost our baby, who was stillborn at the Princess Mary's Hospital, Akrotiri. The RAF Benevolent Fund helped us with the repatriation of our baby daughter to the UK, and supported us with the funeral costs.

We returned to Cyprus and in March 2003 my son was born. But later that year my wife found a lump in her leg and a biopsy found the lump to be cancerous. At this time my wife was pregnant with our third child so we returned to the UK, to see a specialist in London.

Further tests confirmed she had cancer so the wheels were put in motion for me to be posted back to the UK. Our baby was delivered six weeks premature so that my wife could have surgery. All went well and I got my compassionate posting to RAF Lyneham.

Unfortunately after two years of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and many miles travelling to London and Oxford my wife passed away on 23 February 2006 in the local hospice. I was there at her side when she took her last breath and closed her eyes.

Once again the RAF Benevolent Fund was there for me and my family. The RAFBF welfare team and the caseworkers from SSAFA sprang into action and made sure we were OK.

The support I received was unbelievable, and when I was discharged a year later the RAF Benevolent Fund provided a house for me and the kids, which we're still in today.

Since then I've got back on my own two feet and I’m very proud of my three children. I've now got a job at the Ministry Of Justice and am moving on and building a normal life for myself.

This wouldn't have been possible without the incredible support I received from the RAF Benevolent Fund, to whom I owe a tremendous gratitude. Without them I don’t know where I would be.

By Lee Cunliffe

There's a great British Forces News interview with Lee on YouTube.

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