SSAFA

Honouring his late brother, Essex’s Aaron McLaughlin returning to run the London Marathon in 2024

This will not be Aaron McLaughlin’s first time running the London Marathon for SSAFA: in fact, it will be his third. It still means just as much to him, more than six years after the loss of his older brother.

Kirk McLaughlin served for 13 years in the Parachute Regiment. His service took him on tours around the world, including Northern Ireland and Afghanistan. He was medically discharged in 2013, following a major hip surgery that left him unable to continue his service.

Kirk was also an aspiring artist, and after leaving the Army he continued to pursue his passion. His artwork did not go unnoticed, and he won a prestigious Armed Forces Art Society award in 2017. But while he was enjoying success in the creative world, he was also battling persistent physical and mental health issues.

SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity helped Kirk get a specialist bed, because his hip made it difficult to use a regular one. SSAFA also got him appliances for his home, as well as connecting him with mental health services. Unfortunately, Kirk’s struggles with his physical and mental health continued, and on the 21st of November 2017, he gave up his fight and died at the age of 36.

Aaron said of that day:

“The worst day of my life… I had lots of missed calls from my sister and my dad, so I rang my sister back and my dad answered and told me I think which will be the worst thing I have ever heard in my life. I just hung up the phone. I was in a state of shock.”

Losing Kirk took a serious toll on Aaron. He dealt with his own mental health problems after Kirk’s death and has spoken about feeling directionless and struggling with his sense of purpose. Rather than continue to let Kirk’s death dominate his thoughts, Aaron looked for an outlet. He devoted himself to his family, his kids, and his career.

Since 2014 Aaron has worked as a chef at the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn in Holborn, a prestigious society for barristers and legal professionals. He has worked his way up to the role of Sous Chef, a position he has held since January 2020. Sous chef is a very demanding position, requiring leadership and managerial expertise to keep things running smoothly in the kitchen.

Aaron said of his career and becoming a sous chef at Lincoln’s Inn:

“I found it hard to find my feet because it is a very unique establishment, unlike other places I had worked as a chef. I struggled for a very long time because I knew how unwell my brother was, and it really affected me and my life for a long time. After my brother died, I remember thinking to myself, ‘I either let this break me as a person and end up losing everything, or I use this as a driving force to better myself and my life.’

“I went for the sous chef role at Lincoln’s Inn, and I got the job with merit. I was ecstatic. I remember my interview and how impressed they were with me. I walked outside to call my family, but the first thing I did was I looked up at the sky and I cried. I said, ‘I done it bro, I done it for you, and I hope you’re proud of me.’ I will never forget that day as long as I live – one of my proudest moments in my life.

“Being a sous chef is very challenging sometimes. I manage a big team and am responsible for lots of events/dinners etc., but I take it in stride. I always strive to be the best person/manager and dad I can be, because I know this is what Kirk would want me to do.”

He had spoken with his brothers about running the London Marathon together, but never got the opportunity. Aaron’s brother Taylor ran in 2018 in remembrance of Kirk and raised money for the Mental Health Foundation. Aaron decided to run in 2019 and wanted to raise funds for the organisation that helped Kirk in his time of need.

“I thought to myself, ‘I won’t let my brother’s death be a reason for me to give up. I’m going to work hard and do something with my life, give myself a reason to go on and make him proud of me because I knew that’s what he would want me to do.’

“Shortly after, I learned about the charity SSAFA and all the amazing work they do, and how they helped my brother. It was from then I promised I would do everything I could to give something back to the charity and everyone it stands for.”

Aaron ran the London Marathon in 2019 and 2021, as well as the virtual version during Covid. He took a couple years off from participating, while dealing with health issues of his own. He is making his return to the streets of London in April, keeping Kirk in his thoughts while he trains and prepares.

Aaron said this about his return to the London Marathon and fundraising for SSAFA:

“I have decided to run this amazing marathon again in 2024, for this fantastic charity that helps so many servicemen, servicewomen, and their families at all stages of their military career. It’s time to get the training back on track, and there’s still plenty of miles left in me.

“I miss [Kirk] very dearly. Every single day, not a minute goes by where he’s not on my mind. I’ll be running again to keep his memory alive, and I know he will be with me every step of the way.”

Our Executive Members

By @Cobseo 54 years ago

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