The excitement mounts this month for the start of the Rugby World Cup in Japan! This year we have partnered with Lovell to bring some fabulous branded Rugby kit ready for you to show your support for your nation. But who better to model this brand new kit, than the veterans you support, who have found an important route to their recovery through Wheelchair Rugby.
We caught up with veterans Bruce, Jim and David earlier this Summer at an Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby training session in Merthyr Tydfil where they all proudly represented their teams - England, Wales and Scotland.
With more than 30 years military service between them, Bruce, Jim and David have had to fight back from serious life changing injuries leaving them all seeking a new direction. They all came to Help for Heroes for support when they needed it and were guided to sport to help in their recovery.
Meet Jim Whitworth
‘’The 4 hours we train here there’s nothing else in my mind. It takes me to a different place, I am focused on the game, the playing, my training and everything else and that’s what’s good for all of us ‘’.
Jim Whitworth served as a Warrant Officer in 26 Regiment in the Royal Artillery, leaving the service in 2011 after being medically discharged due to spinal problems. After going through a range of support programmes Jim got in touch with Sports Recovery at Help for Heroes, where he soon got the chance to represent the UK in the Airforce Trials in Las Vegas.
‘’Sports Recovery introduced me back into the fold of looking after yourself, new sports…giving you that ethos back and puts you around like-minded people as well, that have all served, or have similar interests’’.
Jim also took part in his local pathfinder course in Treforest, Wales. He said,’’ I had a fair few lightbulb moments and it’s like a grounding course and it really sort of grounds you to understand who you are a little bit more and what makes you tick…it’s been a real eye opener and a real help, it’s got my grey matter thinking again about stuff’’.
‘’If I can stand in here and send that message out to other Veterans who are struggling, families and people that are serving or due to leave or who are feeling a bit lost; just to reconfirm that it’s out there. There is stuff out that you can get involved in. But for me it’s a massive privilege and it’s an honour to share my story of how I’ve been helped by Help for Heroes”.
To have been chosen to represent England and model the Help for Heroes clothing range, including his country’s rugby shirt has been a huge moment for Jim, “I am so proud to wear this shirt and it really is lovely, I think everyone should get one!’’.
In talking about the Help for Heroes’ community he said, ‘’I know it sounds a bit cheesy but they’re your brothers, aren’t they? We all come from different backgrounds, different cap badges, a different cause, we’ve all had different journeys, we’ve all got different injuries, but the one thing we all have in common is that we have served, and we get each other’’.
Watch Jim's video here
Meet Bruce Falkenberg
‘’I feel proud knowing that I wear it and I’m flying the flag for the British army, having served I have a sense of being’’.
Originally from Zimbabwe, Bruce Falkenberg joined the Royal Regiment of Wales in 2000, beginning his service in Germany. After injuries and operations, he found himself being rehabilitated at Headley Court – with no real direction in life. Medically discharged, and living in Wales, it was only after attending Help for Heroes Community Recovery support hubs that Bruce saw a path ahead in the form of wheelchair rugby. ‘’I turned up to a session, found that I was actually okay at it. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, being part of a team again. I was grant-funded a wheelchair by Help for Heroes and Blesma, which has really given me a whole different dynamic, you know. It really opened-up the sport for me’’.
Thoroughly immersing himself in sport led Bruce to attend the UK Invictus Trials in Bath. ‘’It was a fantastic opportunity to see so many variations of sport; people from all walks of life, both serving and veterans; by the end of it everyone had a beaming smile on their face, blisters on their hands, but everyone thoroughly enjoyed it’’.
Bruce has noticed positive changes in the last twelve months. “I think just being around people again of the like mind, I’ve grown, both mentally and physically, being able to relate to people and talk to people. I’ve always had the ability to talk to people you know, but being part of that close-knit group, it’s like family’’.
He says attending support hubs is a fantastic thing, “Everyone’s happy to see you, everyone’s got their own problems you know, they’re going through all sorts of things but it seems like when you walk in that door everyone’s having a cup of tea, a cup of coffee, a bit of a cake, a bit of a laugh and just for a couple of hours, nothing else seems to matter”.
Having served in a Welsh regiment, settled in Wales, and married Louise who is a proud Welsh woman, Bruce is delighted to model the nation’s new Help for Heroes rugby shirt, ‘’It’s a great honour to be able to represent Wales and the charity which has done so much for our family’’.
Watch Bruce's video here
Meet David Dewar
‘’I just wish to say to everybody who’s helped Help for Heroes, they’re doing such a fantastic job, supporting our Servicemen in the Navy, RAF and the Army. Please keep doing it, it’s very appreciated and thank you’’.
David Dewar served for 16 and a half years in the Army, before a spinal injury left him unable to continue his military career.
As a keen sportsman, David was always interested in keeping fit, pushing boundaries and staying competitive. After approaching Help for Heroes for support he said, ‘’I’ve never looked back. The support they’ve given me has been fantastic and it still carries on to this day. Without Help for Heroes, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in my sports as I am now, to a good level, which I’m happy with’’.
2018 saw David take part in the UK Invictus Trials where he took part in a range of sports, and found his favourite, Wheelchair rugby. He says a combination of sport and medication helps him manage his pain and enables him to train, even joining the Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby Team, made up of injured veterans and civilians with a range of health conditions.
‘’I think for me, my main sport has to be wheelchair rugby. I enjoy it so much. I like coming and training with the guys. We’ve all got various illnesses or injuries, but we all get along. I go away with a good smile’’.
After a challenging time, David is feeling positive again, thanks to sport. The Scotsman says, ‘’At the moment I feel that I’m in a better place, and I’m really happy and I’m really proud today to wear the Scottish top for Help for Heroes’’.
Watch David's video here