Veteran, Russell joined our Winter catalogue photoshoot with his wonderful family, to model everything from Christmas T-Shirts to striking patriotic kit and our staple heritage range. We thoroughly enjoyed having them along!
You can read Russell's powerful story below which is included in our new Winter catalogue, along with images from the photoshoot.
Former Leading Hand Russell joined the Royal Navy at 17. He loved being part of the Navy family and travelling the world. In 2004 Russell developed an infection after returning from deployment, which left him with life-changing physical injuries and mental health problems. Through Help for Heroes, Russell got the support he needed to rebuild his life, and he even represented his country as part of Team UK at the Invictus Games 2022.
“The military runs in my family; my dad and grandad were in the Army and my stepdad was in the RAF. The Falklands War was still in a lot of people’s memory when I was young, and then the first Gulf War happened. I’d wanted to join the military from a young age and the Navy allowed me to serve and travel. I loved the Navy family and the places we got to go.”
Upon returning from deployment in South America in 2004, Russell suffered a life-threatening infection, causing blood poisoning which left him with permanent muscle damage in both legs. He returned to the UK for surgery and spent the following month in a coma. It took him months to learn to walk again. Fifteen years later, he still relies on splints to walk and occasionally uses a walking stick.
At the time Navy doctors said he had recovered, but in 2010 Russell was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and anxiety. “I was having nightmares and had a very short temper. At my lowest I didn’t feel like myself, I could be angry, I didn’t want to go anywhere or see anyone. The only way I could cope was by drinking’’.
“There were some dark times when I thought about taking my own life and ending it all. It was very hard for my family to watch. I didn’t understand what was going on, and they didn’t either.”
Russell lived with his injuries and mental health issues for over a decade, but in 2018 he reached out to Help for Heroes Hidden Wounds Service. “Accessing Hidden Wounds potentially saved my life. The times I’d had suicidal thoughts, I didn’t go through with it, but who knows what would have happened if I’d have felt like that again and didn’t have the support’’.
Through Hidden Wounds Russell found the Big Battlefield Bike Ride and really caught the cycling bug, from there he went on to try out for the Invictus Games and got selected as part of Team UK at the Hague 2022.
“I can’t over state how important Help for Heroes has been in my recovery. From 2018 when I first got in contact to now, I have completely changed my life. I have gone from just existing and plodding on to really wanting to live and find things I enjoy doing’’. “I’ve got my confidence back, I’m able to speak to people again. It’s given me my life back’’.