Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited by a truly inspirational colleague to volunteer at a Help4Heroes training camp, which is preparing literally hundreds of our injured military folks for the next Invictus Games in The Hague in 2020. I had the privilege – and I don’t mean that frivolously – of laying my hands on men and women of our Armed Forces who have been injured while serving our country.
I met so many remarkable people, every one with a story to tell, every one with a life shattering injury, many of whom have lost the career they loved, and most of whom face a battle not just with lifelong pain, but also with the demons of PTSD.
These people come to try out multiple sports, to participate in team events, to smash personal barriers, and ultimately, to compete for their country. My ridiculously unfit able-bodied self watched from the sidelines as these tremendous folks pushed themselves beyond hard – at wheelchair rugby and basketball, rowing, swimming, cycling, seated volleyball, power lifting, athletics, archery and more.
Words seem inadequate to express how this experience made me feel.
It is utterly heart-breaking that the recovery journey of these amazing people is largely the responsibility of charity. Funding for health and wellness programmes for the people of our Armed Forces has been mercilessly cut in recent years. These people served for each of us. They have seen things we will never have to see. They have paid the price with their bodies and their mental health. I believe it should be the responsibility of each of us, via our taxes, to say thank you for the things they have seen and done in our names, and to support them as they recover. The government should be doing far more to come alongside these folks both financially and through appropriate recovery programmes.
Therefore, thank goodness for charities like Help4Heroes, Combat Stress and the British Legion, who pick up the pieces, put those pieces back together, and support the awe-inspiring folks I am so very moved to have spent time with. This weekend I have learned lessons in perseverance, bravery, resilience, humility and loyalty.