Serving Together Always Remembered | The Salvation Army

Serving Together Always Remembered

For 79-year-old Hamish Wilson, deciding to give to The Salvation Army was an easy decision, because the ‘Sallies’ had journeyed with him, and his fellow servicemen, during his 29-year army career.

‘The Sallies were always there,’ says Hamish, referring to the social presence The Salvation Army had in the army camps—in a hut where they served tea, and provided some games, that offered an alternative to the pubs where the drinking culture was a slippery slope for some.

In 1979, Hamish was the commandant of Trentham Military Camp and deputy regional commander for the Wellington, East Cape and Taranaki region.

‘We dealt with personnel business mainly and particularly the higher levels of military discipline. At Upper Hutt at that time, there was a very lively drug scene. And it seemed to be targeting soldiers, or maybe they were throwing themselves into it.’

At the time, the Defence Force had a policy whereby any servicemen with habits or addictions which affected their work in any way could be summarily discharged. ‘And that wasn't fooled around with,’ says Hamish. ‘Unless people accepted treatment and responded satisfactorily, they were disposed of.’

With careers, and even lives at stake, it was Hamish’s job to find that treatment, and that’s where The Salvation Army came to the rescue of him and his men. Any detox programmes he could find were oversubscribed so, having heard of the Bridge programme he approached The Salvation Army. The local Bridge programme was busy but said they could take the soldiers on a day-programme basis.

So started a relationship that has made a deep and meaningful impact on Hamish’s life.

‘It solved a very big problem for us,’ says Hamish. ‘After the first week, I asked the men how they were finding it and they felt they were being treated with aroha. I estimate I personally put about 12 men through the programme. The Salvation Army accepted everyone I put forward and no one felt demeaned, which was important.

‘It was a very high success rate, virtually 100 percent in our area, whereas we’d had no success at all with the odd person we managed to get into any of the other detox programmes.’ Concerned that it was a one-way exchange, Hamish was pleased to hear that the soldiers with trades were finding ways to give back by helping The Salvation Army Centre with any relevant jobs.

Hamish and his wife Alison are members of our True Heroes regular giving programme that funds the wraparound services which provide a holistic solution to those who find themselves in desperate situations.

‘It seems logical that, when you’ve dealt with your own needs, you give what you can to others,’ says Hamish. ‘The Salvation Army is going to use the money where it is needed, of that, I am sure.’

To become a true hero like Hamish and Alison, contact Gabrielle on 021 352 742, or email