Thoughts on my recent involvement with Veteran In Action….
After being medically discharged after 18 years’ service I really struggled to find a purpose in the world, I have been having treatment coming up to 8 years now and tried numerous medications all of which offered some respite but little relief in the grand scheme of things.
I started my own business which gave me something to concentrate on and occupy my mind, but after a recent turn in my physical health I found myself off work and at home and ruminating once again.
With that came the nightmares and the big dip I’d tried so hard to avoid, add to that the feeling of uselessness and a feeling of needing to do something to assist with the Ukraine situation I reached out to Billy and the team and offered my services in driving Aid to wherever it was needed.
So I’d taken the daunting step at reaching out for help once again, Billy said I would be more than welcome to join the team and he wasn’t kidding, I was made to feel welcome from the very first moment I arrived at the centre.
I was quickly put to work in the loading of boxes into the hire vans and banter started. I must say it was the most normal/comfortable I’d felt in months it was just like “The good old days” I thought.
Then we had a couple of hours Kip before setting off, unfortunately the nightmares came calling and once the guys realised, I was ok had a giggle and said keep the noise down which strangely enough made me feel better about things “Squaddie humour”
The we started the mammoth drive across to Poland taking it in turns driving shifts, had a good old chat with like minded people much better than any talking therapy I’ve done as there were no holds barred and they could REALLY relate.
Once we hit Poland, we stopped off for a few hours kip, and I was out like a light and nightmare free. Then we reached the destination, and the feeling once the final box off aid came off the van was amazing, a sense of pride purpose and achievement and the motto “Helping Ourselves By Helping Others” has never been more true.
I have since completed a second trip to Poland and fitted in right away with everyone with no trepidation this time.
I have continued to communicate with Billy and recently joined the Veterans In Action team with my family for a large BBQ with my own family who they brought in and made them all feel welcome.
We all know what it’s like to have teenagers and to get them to go with their parents to anything like a BBQ but our son joined us and this is where young Billy excelled with different interests like playing the guitar and listening to music and now my son can’t wait to come back down with me.
It is early days for me, but I can see a path ahead which includes my family moving forward with me.
You’ve no idea how much I needed this, Billy. Thank you!
ALIVE VIRTUAL CHALLENGES are unique compared to those you might find through an internet search. These challenges not only make a difference for yourself but also for military veterans who have experienced the effects of war or who have struggled with transitioning to civilian life.
Unlike traditional challenges where you simply pay a fee and receive a medal, our challenges are all about MAKING A DIFFERENCE by raising funds equivalent to the mileage you complete.
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I needed focus I needed something to fill my time, well maybe not fill my time but something to focus on like a target, a needed to get back my drive.
I started to help VIA ‘Veterans In Action’ and found something that I could do, use the old skills that I learnt in the army and more since I left which I did not register I had.
I had been missing that motivation to do something that I wanted to do and gain that level of self-gratification and achievement.
Everybody has a skill set, but it’s the motivation to use it we can lose, VIA have various projects on the go all the time, hopefully I have found my niche to help them and myself to gain personal gratification by being a member of a team again and a job well done.
After discussions I realised that it’s this which advances my mental well-being and my ongoing fight against depression and the feeling of worthlessness.
I have woken up, helping hand in hand with fellow soldiers suffering from labelled disorders finding strength from weakness, realising what helps them generally does helps me, the recognition has been an awakening.”
Ian ‘Chalky’ White former 17th/21st Lancers and B Sqn 22 SAS
Veterans In Action have been filming our expeditions for many years for our YouTube Channel, Veterans Expeditions Overland, and through this experience of not only running the expeditions but also capturing footage that enables veterans who have taken part in a place of reference to recapture how they felt by taking part.
The Veterans In Focus project enables veterans to learn new skills and record not only the expeditions we run but also the day-to-day work on all projects connecting them all together so everyone feels involved in all aspects of the work we do.
VIA take a long-term approach to helping veterans who suffer to enable them to grow within a project working alongside their peers. All this can be achieved within this project which can be ongoing and would allow veterans to learn new skills or to pass on skills learned during their time in the services
Some of the outcomes of the project are a sense of purpose, regaining confidence and working in an environment alongside other veterans where they can instantly feel relaxed, chilled-out, secure, and safe.
Veterans can work at their own pace, stop thinking negatively, concentrate, learn new skills, be part of building something, and most importantly where problems are understood this will positively impact mood and stress levels.
For those involved in the project, they can also get involved on an expedition HERE
I became involved with VIA in 2010 after my life took a turn for the worse and was invited along to do some fundraising with them. This helped me no end and in time my life got back on track. I completed a Union Flag Walk with them from Cape Wrath to Land’s End which again helped as walking and talking with other veterans with similar stories was a great help in understanding how I was feeling. I gained control of my life again.
In 2019, I took part in an overland expedition travelling through the Spanish Pyrenees and whilst away my life took a turn for the worse again due to family problems back in the UK. On my return I had to start again and rebuild and focus on the future and with the help of Veterans In Action I got back on track and took control.
I now own and run my own courier business.
Mark Colman former Royal Engineers
To date, we have travelled 25,000 miles travelling through 30 different countries and some of them several times both on overland expeditions for humanitarian aid through the pandemic and more recently supplying medical humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
It is important to note that to take part in one of our overland expeditions we insist that veterans get involved in the BUILD IT part of the project. The reason for this is part of the Post Traumatic Growth process which is our method for helping veterans so that veterans can grow within a team of their peers, learning new skills and relearning old skill sets that may have been forgotten after service.
Leading up to an expedition involves expedition training which will include off-road driving, navigation, camp setups, camp cooking and daily maintenance, something most veterans will understand from their time in the services.
It would be unfair for any individual to turn up on the day of an expedition who hadn’t previously been involved as everyone else would have been working together over a long period of time so due to the very nature of the mental health problems of those we take out on expedition turning up on day 1 for any individual could become very difficult to find where they fit in no matter how welcoming everyone was.
It is the involvement long-term on building the vehicles that enable veterans to grow that gets them to a place where they fully enjoy all aspects of the expedition experience starting from the minute that an overland expedition sets off.