These annual awards recognise members of the military community who are changing the world for the better in their life outside of the forces.
The duo's unique relationship and achievements in supporting veterans with mental health needs saw them nominated in the Animal Partnership category. Winners for this category were chosen following a public vote.
An extraordinary bond
Jon Giemza-Pipe represents the voice of military veterans in our regional Op Courage NHS veterans mental health and wellbeing service and has most recently stepped up as our acting armed forces lead at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
He has used his experiences of serving 22 years’ in the Royal Artillery, and recovering from health challenges, to help veterans across the South East of England to overcome tough times and recover from mental health challenges.
Baxter is his faithful companion and best friend who is always there to provide support and grounding during difficult moments. Wherever he goes Baxter goes with him – whether that’s crossing the ferry to the Isle of Wight, representing the service at an outreach event or meeting new veterans at a drop-in clinic. He helps Jon do what he loves most and together they've formed an extraordinary bond.
Jon, said: “It was a huge honour to be selected as a finalist against some awesome folks, who have all realised the power of animals in making connections especially in terms of mental health. Having my canine partner, Baxter, by my side, has meant I have been able to make that change out of the military, start to address my own recovery on an onwards path.
“Thank you to everyone who voted for us to win, it means a lot. I’m so lucky to be working in the Berkshire Healthcare Op Courage service with a brilliant team who I absolutely adore!”
Winners across 12 categories were announced at an event in London on Wednesday 27 September 2023.
Journalist Jeremy Vine presented the awards and introduced the finalists’ inspirational stories.
The veterans were praised by Johnny Mercer MP, Minister for Veterans Affairs for their achievements.
Well-known veterans also sent encouraging video messages including: adventurer Bear Grylls, British Army veteran and astronaut Major Tim Peake and SAS: Who Dares Wins Chief Instructor Billy Billingham.