A former air cadet who is living his dream in the Royal Air Force has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for charitable services to people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Aircraftsman Alex Anderson, aged 20, of Newport who himself has Asperger’s syndrome, has dedicated himself to raising awareness among younger people about what he calls “invisible conditions”.

Mr Anderson said he was “just blown away” and “humbled” to receive the BEM, which follows previous recognition for his voluntary work including a Princess Diana Award, a South Wales Argus Pride of Gwent Award and being named the CVQO Westminster Award winner 2018.

Alex, who began basic training with the RAF in December, said it had been his dream to join the RAF and champion people with conditions such as his own.aircraftsman

“I never let a label define me and if I can do this anyone can,” said Alex, who recommends joining air cadets to all young people.

“Air cadets is like anything in life, you get out of it what you put in. It helps to develop your confidence and offers experiences and memories that stay with you for the rest of your life. Through air cadets I was lucky enough to go to South Africa which was amazing.”

The former 1367 (Caerleon) Squadron cadet and John Frost High School pupil said his positive experiences at the school’s dedicated unit for children with ASD, made him realise he wanted to do something to help others.

Alex who was diagnosed with Asperger’s at the age of nine and faced difficulties when he was younger which impacted his health, put this behind him in order to help others, always doing his best to do right by people. This included helping fellow students to settle into school.

He says he does not regard his condition as a disadvantage, rather something that enables him to reach out and help people in his community.

Air Officer Wales, Air Commodore Adrian Williams OBE said, “It was wonderful to read about Aircraftsman Alex Anderson’s award of a BEM. In his recent years as an Air Cadet in Caerleon, he has worked tirelessly to support many charities, in particular those working in the area of autism spectrum disorder, where he has made an important and lasting contribution.

“This is fantastic recognition of Alex’s achievements and the whole of the RAF warmly congratulates him on his BEM. As he now starts his RAF service, we also wish him every success in his future RAF career. Da iawn Alex!”

Over the years Alex has also raised money for charities such as St David’s, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Tŷ Hafan children’s hospice through a hanging basket business that he used to run, from which he donated £1 from the price of every item sold. He’s netted further funds by taking part in fun runs and abseiling from the Newport Transporter Bridge.

All in all he’s freely given more than 1,000 hours of his time, an achievement recognised by an award from the Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations.

Flight Sergeant Richard Renshaw of 1367 (Caerleon) Squadron said all at No 1 Welsh Wing were delighted to hear that one of their former air cadets had been awarded a prestigious BEM.

Flight Sergeant Renshaw said, “We tell all our cadets to strive towards any and all awards/ qualifications on offer to them both inside and outside our organisation if they meet the requirements for them. Without any prompting from us Alex’s desire and determination to find and complete these awards/qualifications was admirable and it was inspiring to constantly have him coming up with paperwork to fill in or people to contact to set him up on the awards.”

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