Well let me see now… before I got involved with Veterans in Action I was not in a good place; in fact, I was in a very dark and lonely place. I had been medically discharged from the armed forces in 1999 with injuries to knees and back as well as mental health issues… with a sudden drop in care from what I received in the armed forces with physio, and psychiatric help from regular sessions to being put on waiting lists and medication severely reduced I effectively ended up just not caring about myself and gradually become more and more a recluse with multiple suicide attempts…
When I met Billy for the first time in 2010, I was at the end of a ten-year nightmare and felt this would be my last attempt at anything. In fact, if I came back of the John O’Groats to Lands End walk feeling as I did when I started, I was intending to kill myself, I had already packed up my flat before I left and written the farewell letters to my family.
During that first walk I was nudged into situations I did not want to be in as in crowds and generally around people… which ended up being a good thing as seeing how the public responds to veterans and the nice comments is something that does and did make me feel better about myself… doing the walk and doing some running built my confidence up in the fact that I was not as broken as I believed myself to be, and all the years of fitness and keeping up with my physio exercises really had paid off.
By the end of that first walk I felt like a different person. Someone who had objectives or goals long and short term. Someone that new how to recognise when I was heading into a dark place and how to change focus to bring me back out of it… as well as recognising that if I had a long-term objective to aim for and knew the steps to get there whether it was fitness or education related, I would be better for it. The danger with me and for most is to stopping chasing dreams and goals, giving up the fight!
A lot of years have passed since that first walk in the years since I’ve been lucky to of been involved with a lot subsequent events as part of the support team as well as many many many fundraising days in towns and at football and rugby matches… all of which just made me stronger and stronger and better equipped to handle and recognise my own issues, as well as knowing there is support there with Veterans in Action if I need it.
I am someone now who has been in a long-term relationship, now into the seventh year with a young daughter Penny and a new son Stanley. This is something that I never thought was possible and do not believe it would have happened if it were not for Billy helping me years ago… I did give my son a middle name of Billy as respect and appreciate for the friendship and help Billy has given me.
Last year I also proved the army doctor wrong who told me just before I was medically discharged from the army that ‘I could forget about running again’ my determination to get better and prove people like him wrong lead me to competing in the 100k Peak District ultra-marathon and coming in 37th out of 580 runners, 144 drop outs through injury… a hell of a day thunderstorms and torrential rain! and another example of learning how to focus on things and find things to drive you can help massively something again learnt from Billy and VIA…
When it comes to educational, I finally had the confidence to do at complete my Personnel trainers qualification and now I am undertaking a Full Stack Developers course… hoping to be in a career that I enjoy by mid-2022 and designing my own training website… I know that its going to be a mental challenge and difficult for me mentally if all the hopes come to nothing or slow to a crawl with getting into this industry in May /June… knowing that and recognising it helps to prepare for it… fingers crossed though…
Ill finish off by saying again a big thanks to Billy and all at Veterans in Action that I have spent time with, worked with and had fun with. the support and help have been second to none and as I say I certainly would not be here now and achieved the things I have done and yet to do if it was not for them all.
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.
Click here for more information
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.