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    NO MOUNTAIN TOO HIGH FOR WHEELCHAIR VETERAN, JAMES COBBY

    NO MOUNTAIN TOO HIGH FOR WHEELCHAIR VETERAN, JAMES COBBY

    On the 15th June a team of Help for Heroes staff, supporters and veterans, including James, a veteran who uses a wheelchair following a serious brain injury – completed the Op Ysbrydoli challenge to climb the highest peak in Wales, Pen-Y-Fan.

    They wore specially designed T-Shirts for the climb, created by 6-year-old, Sayami from Mount Street Infants, in Brecon. Children from the SSCE Cymru (Supporting Service Children in Education) were invited to enter a competition to design the team’s T-Shirts to support the challenge.

    The T-Shirt is available to purchase below, with 100% profit providing vital support to veterans and their families.

    Last year, a six-strong team of veterans representing Wales won the Charity’s national virtual spring games. They had such a great time together, that they’ve stayed in touch and decided they’d like to carry out a further challenge this year.

    The team included a ‘ringer’, West Sussex-based, former Royal Marine James Cobby, 30, who uses a wheelchair following an accident that resulted in a serious brain injury, but who has been defying doctors’ prognoses ever since. James stepped in to fill the gap left by a last-minute withdrawal and has been regarded as an honorary Welshman ever since.

    James completed the challenge, with the support of the whole group, using a specially designed off-road wheelchair.

    One of the organisers, Help for Heroes’ Sport, Activity & Fellowship Lead, Nick Vanderpump, explained: “There was such a great spirit within the team they decided they wanted to undertake a further challenge together and, with the benefit of an all-terrain wheelchair – and his fabulous support team – James was there again at the forefront of it. They’re all such great friends now, it’s heart-warming.

    “The idea of the climb was not to fundraise, but to demonstrate the value of fellowship and personal goal setting for veterans on their journey of recovery. And this concept is a central tenet of what we do at Help for Heroes.”

    The five-strong team who took on Pen Y Fan were Cobby, from Shoreham-by Sea; Liam Mountain, from Bridgend; Matt Neve, Swansea; Jason Tamplin, Newport; and Donna Davies, who lives in Hengoed.

    Sayami’s Op Ysbrydoli T-Shirt is available to purchase now, with options to buy in adult and children’s sizes.

    JAMES IS MAKING STRIDES TO SUCCESS

    JAMES IS MAKING STRIDES TO SUCCESS

    Veteran, James Stride is the new face of our new Summer catalogue - in this edition he shares the proudest moment of his life and how the support from Help for Heroes' Sports Recovery and Psychological wellbeing team means he is looking forward to the future. 

    James models key pieces from our range of branded clothing, including our Jubilee and Patriotic collections, performance sports kit and best-selling Heritage range.

     

    James Stride served in the Corps of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), from 2001-2010, before a spinal cord injury left him with permanent nerve damage and muscle loss in his right leg; an injury which causes him day-to-day issues.

    "My injury causes me some day-to-day issues. I have a weird little limp in my walk which is caused by the weakness in my right leg; it's much worse when I'm tired. I am in constant pain in my right hip and lower back and have constant numbness in my right hamstring and calf.”

    Since leaving the Army, James has also suffered with depression and other mental health issues, but with support from Help for Heroes Sports Recovery and the Psychological Wellbeing team, he is looking forward to the future.

    "The lnvictus programme has, indeed, helped me mentally as well as physically. It's given me focus and drive that I had lost and has helped me to learn to look after myself again, and the support from the Psychological Wellbeing team has been invaluable''.

    "If I could say one thing to the public about continuing to support Help for Heroes, it would be that Help for Heroes save lives in ways the general public could never imagine."

    James is proud to have been part of Team UK at this year’s lnvictus Games at The Hague and said: "Being part of the lnvictus Games was one of the proudest moments of my life."

    James' message to anyone who might be thinking of coming forward for support is: "DO IT NOW! Help for Heroes is a safe place, a community that will have your back once again."
      

    OUR NEW SUMMER CATALOGUE IS HERE!

    OUR NEW SUMMER CATALOGUE IS HERE!

    Our Summer catalogue has just landed! It's jam-packed with new arrivals and inspiring veteran stories, plus everything you need to; celebrate the Jubilee, commemorate the Falklands, go classic with bestsellers, or shop Father's Day gifts for your hero Dad.

    Every purchase is helping to support wounded veterans and their families on their recovery journey - take a browse and shop today.

    CLUB TOGETHER TO BEAT LONELINESS AND ISOLATION OF VETERANS

    CLUB TOGETHER TO BEAT LONELINESS AND ISOLATION OF VETERANS

    You know that your support helps veterans in many ways with loneliness and isolation a key issue for life after the military.

    A new initiative of a Virtual Book Club was started recently and has snowballed to be a national group with members enjoying books as well as new friendships. Read on to see how you could ‘read along’ with veterans and get reviews on the books veterans are enjoying. You could even grab the book from Amazon and set up your Amazon Smile account, so that Help for Heroes is your favoured charity for donations when you shop.

    How it all began

    The book club was founded by Help for Heroes, Project Case Manager, Sarah Hattle, who initially started the group in her area of North Wales before the club quickly grew, engaging veterans countrywide. The club now meets three times a month, hosted by Sarah.

    Sarah Hattle, Help for Heroes

    “It has been proven connections are far more likely to be meaningful if there is a shared interest, rather than just a group based on demographics. If the only commonality in the group was just their military service, it is less likely people will connect meaningfully. People attending the group will have – or will gain – an interest in books and reading, and I’m hopeful this will spark friendships beyond the bounds of the group’’.

    After spending 21 years in the Royal Navy herself, Sarah who joined Help for Heroes last year is keen to make a difference to the lives of veterans.’’ I want to make a difference to existing beneficiaries and reach out to veterans who, perhaps, haven’t engaged with the charity previously, whether that’s through mountain-biking, a swimming club, a book club … whatever the need I’m hoping to be able to cater for it.”

    She believes her military experience has given her a good understanding of veterans and the military culture. “The last year has really made me aware of the effect social isolation can have on people, and the last 21 years in the Navy have hopefully given me a really good understanding of veterans and the military culture’’.

    “It’s part of who I am. I speak the language; I understand the slightly strange humour us military folk have; and then living, speaking and breathing Welsh all combine to, hopefully, make me the perfect individual for this role.”

    The book club’s most recent contributor to the club is, former Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander-turned-author, Mike Klidjian, who donated 10 copies of his first novel, Blue streak, to the group and joined a session in February to discuss it with participants.

    Mike shared his thoughts with us on being the first author to feature in the club. “It was a great privilege to be the first author featured at the Help for Heroes book club. It’s so unusual to find such a geographically diverse club with readers of all ages and backgrounds — perfect ingredients for some interesting and enlightening discussions. I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to talk to the members and I’m certain that the club will continue to go from strength to strength under Sarah’s expert curatorship! Thank you very much for the invite, and I hope to be back after you’ve read my next one!".

    Mike also shared his writing process as, ‘’watching a film in your head and writing it down”.

    Blue Streak REVIEW

    A veteran from the book club shared his review of Blue streak.

    ‘’This book, a first for this new author, seeks to combine elements of a modern thriller with those of historical fiction which featured characters such as Hornblower and Bolitho. The hero is a Royal Naval officer, Lieutenant Jack Browne who is serving in a modern warship, HMS Diana, operating in the in the Gulf. Jack Browne is the leader of the ship’s boarding party which entails making armed inspections of suspect merchant vessels looking for evidence of smuggling, drug running, or piracy. During one of these boardings it becomes evident that Jack has stumbled on some potential terrorist activity. Later he becomes involved with a young female secret agent, Mia, and together they set out to track down the terrorists.

    The early chapters of the book, which seek to establish a scenario and a background to the principal characters, go into considerable detail about the ship and its operations. Readers from a non-naval background may find it a challenge to interpret the wide range of acronyms and titles which arise. Fortunately, the author has included an extensive glossary of these at the back of the book which will be of considerable help to the layman. However, the author has had to deal with a major challenge in establishing the circumstances of the ship’s operations while painting a picture which is as up to date as possible. Modern digital communication, modern weaponry, and a superyacht (the Blue Streak of the title) are all involved in a story which picks up pace and leads to a satisfyingly climactic conclusion which yet allows sufficient scope for a subsequent adventure for Jack Browne in another novel, which is yet to be published.

    Although this is a recently published work it is understood that the story has raised considerable interest in several quarters and negotiations are in hand to produce a TV series based on “Blue Streak”. Mike Klidjian intends to create a series of Jack Browne novels and this first volume represents an excellent opportunity for the reader to be involved at the beginning of what could become a successful saga’’.

    Next book to feature...

    Sarah has already lined up further authors to participate, as they offer their support to the charity’s efforts to get veterans to engage further. The next author to attend a session will be Welsh writer Rebecca F John, who will discuss her novel The Empty Greatcoat, a fictionalised account of a British soldier’s experiences during WWI, inspired by the journals of her great-great-uncle.

    Look out for regular updates from Help for Heroes book club, as we share book reviews and author insights.

    Support the club

    Are you an author? Do you know an author? Sarah has a number of authors lined up to support the club over the coming months, but she is always on the lookout for more. If you are able to directly support the club in this way, please contact sarah.hattle@helpforheroes.org.uk

    Amazon Smile and Help for Heroes

    If you have a keen interest in books and feel inspired to read, Blue Streak by Mike Klidjian – why not purchase from Amazon Smile?

    Simply set up Amazon Smile and know that your shopping is helping to benefit veterans and their families, to receive the support they deserve.

    Use this link to set up Amazon Smile today: https://bit.ly/3tgQQ7m

    Find out more about how it works here: https://bit.ly/3wbxItk

     

    Amazon Smile

    COMBAT FUEL x HELP FOR HEROES: ALEX BEREZYNSKYJ

    COMBAT FUEL x HELP FOR HEROES: ALEX BEREZYNSKYJ

    We caught up with veteran and founder of Combat Fuel Supplements (the UK’s #1 military supplement company), Alex Berezynskyj. Alex talks about his role serving in the army, his struggles with mental health and the support he received to aid in his recovery. 

    Alex modelling the Combat Green Union Jack Sleeve T-Shirt

    Photo by Alex Morris. 

    Alex models the Combat Green Union Jack Sleeve T-Shirt, available here

    Who are you?

    Alex Berezynskyj, 30-year-old former soldier, founder and co-owner of Combat Fuel Supplements Ltd. 

    What did you do in the army?

    I was an infantry soldier with 1 Royal Anglian, the Vikings, and an Afghanistan veteran. Alongside my primary role as an infantry soldier, always priding myself on all things fitness, I also undertook the army’s ‘all arms physical training instructors’ course to enable me to deliver physical training to a high standard back to my unit.

    Why were you discharged?

    Unfortunately, in 2017, after a long battle with mental health – including being admitted to a psychiatric ward – and a fractured patella, at my medial board hearing the decision was to medically discharge me as P0. This meant I had no possible return to service or employment within the army, even in another role.

    How did you hear about Help for Heroes?

    I mean, who hasn’t? With the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Help for Heroes was constantly in the news for all the vital help and support it was giving to physically injured soldiers and officers alike. Whilst going through my recovery I was placed under a PRU, Personal Recovery Unit, it was here through my recovery officer, Lenny, that I was put in touch with Help for Heroes to further assist me.

    How did Help for Heroes aid your recovery?

    The charity runs a series of recovery events starting with CRE’s, Core Recovery Events. These were amazing at getting me out of my shell. I started talking again; I began to acknowledge the impact my mental health was having on my life and accepted I would never be the ‘old me again’. The realisation hit that this was something I would need to learn to live with and that ending my own life would only pass the burden onto someone else – my pain would stop but my family and friends would then carry that pain. The judgement-free zone, being able to undertake therapy and talk freely without fear of being detained and being put back into a psychiatric ward was incomprehensible as to the value it made on my recovery.

    Why did Combat Fuel partner with Help for Heroes?

    Quite simply I wanted to give back to the charity that helped me the most. Of course, it’s a two-way thing, and Help for Heroes needed the desire to work with Combat Fuel. As a Help for Heroes beneficiary, an avid supporter of the charity, and being the UK’s #1 military supplement company, the partnership came naturally. When things are supposed to be, they just work. Help for Heroes and Combat Fuel is a real story of how important it is to help others. I was on the brink of losing everything and now we walk side by side helping other veterans.

    Shop Combat Fuel in the Help for Heroes shop here 

    Why do you think its important to support Help for Heroes?

    Because our government is incapable of doing the job; Help for Heroes and all other charities shouldn’t exist, it’s a shame they even do! However, it’s vital we continue to support Help for Heroes to make up for the shortfall from those who should look after veterans’ welfare, but don’t. At the time of writing, Help for Heroes has helped more than 26,500 veterans – imagine if the charity wasn’t supported how many veterans may not be here today or in a far more dire situation had they not received the help from the charity.

       

    Photo by Alex Morris.

    Alex models the new Technical Sports T-Shirt - Shop our new sports collection here 

    How are Combat Fuel and Help for Heroes working together now?

    As a company we supported Help for Heroes two ways: initially, simply making donations from income generated through product sales. This evolved into a commercial partnership agreement between the two of us where, for many years, we proudly displayed the Help for Heroes logo on all our products, donating five per cent of our profits to the charity. Since a major re-brand we, sadly, were unable to continue displaying the Help for Heroes logo on our products due to international sales. We also decided to remove the soldier image from the front as we become more of a household name. However, all is not lost! We continue to make donations to the charity through products sales and match funding for fund-raising events we’re able to sponsor.

    What does the future hold?

    Lots! Although I have less of an active role within the company, and reducing to only working part-time, the company that I founded continues to grow exponentially. As such I’ve ensured the charity will continue to receive support from Combat Fuel. From donations, to match funding for events, through to publicly supporting the charity, anything the company and I, myself, can do, we will.

    Shop Combat Fuel in the Help for Heroes shop here