Our wounded soldiers are something of a preoccupation of mine. Our military serve our country and contribute to allowing you and I freedoms and choices that we often take for granted.
While we busy ourselves they work and prepare for whatever is on the World stage that might threaten this precious freedom.
I didn’t achieve my goal of becoming a lawyer in the Army Legal Service. Four years qualifying as a lawyer and at the same time serving as a reservist in the Honourable Artillery Company. Plans and aspirations to join the military full time were put on hold one morning when I was badly injured.
5 years later and it was time to say a personal thank you to our physically and mentally wounded soldiers.
Sunflowers for Soldiers for our wounded soldiers was born.
A 630 mile walk along the South West Coast Path, the UK’s longest National Trail. Spanning 4 counties and the equivalent climb of approximately 4 Mt Everest’s. Along this path I would plant a sunflower seed for each of the 616 severely wounded soldiers from the Afghanistan campaign.
The Sunflower. A symbol of longevity, energy, warmth and happiness and they always face the sun, the symbol of life itself.
The speech by LCpl Jason Hare RM that alerted me to this charity and moved me beyond comprehension.
Horseback UK is a young charity began by a veteran Royal Marine, Jock Hutchinson and his wife Emma. It aims to take wounded soldiers and…
Through working with the horses amongst a like minded group, service personnel who had been mentally and physically scarred could regain their confidence, dignity and especially in the case of amputees, mobility.
Horseback UK then added another layer and used the services of wounded soldiers to deliver the courses it provided.
This is a very poignant charity for me. An injury through my life long obsession with horse riding had prevented me joining the military full time. Yet here this charity and its horses were helping to fix our wounded soldiers.
It was intended to be a great challenge and feat of endurance. A metaphor for recovering from serious injury.
Late July 2015 in Minehead was damp and miserable. My support team, my long suffering father and his partner, and I met Tim, from Forces TV and there it began. Tim followed me as I planted the first sunflower seed for LCpl Hare from Horseback UK.
For 36 days I walked between 10 and 30 miles per day averaging a steady 17.5 miles.
I chewed the miles up and the landscape was stunning, challenging and each part had its own distinct atmosphere and character.
The weather on the whole was good. The first couple of days were miserable but that is what I signed up for and what I needed. In my mind it was enduring hardship which might my mission to feel what those wounded soldiers might have felt on duty. Minus the firefights and IED’s.
I met and spoke with people from around the world and they planted sunflower seeds or took them home. We chatted about the war and our wounded soldiers. Our eyes are open to how news affects us a country. When I spoke to my fellow walkers it opened my eyes to the affects that this campaign had across the globe.
Through a friend of mine I happened upon Taff, a veteran Royal Marine. He was walking from John O Groats to Lands End in memory of his wife who he lost to cancer. We walked together for 10 days along with Werner and Tom. A small group of waifs and strays all taking on this path for our own personal reasons.
The Royal Marines, Commando Logistic Regiment, 42 Commando and Royal Marines Association North Devon were supporting Taff. By right of passage and being a chum of Taff’s so was I.
I must have walked and talked with around 30 Royal Marines in those 10 days. Both veterans and serving. They all planted Sunflower seeds for their fallen and wounded brothers. They would speak of these men with affection and tell me of their experiences.
Alan a veteran Royal Marine who served in WWII told me the story of his experience of the D-Day Landings.
The boys participation in my quest to honour our wounded soldiers was the most wonderful tonic and it won’t be the last time they see me either.