Ross Austen

Ross Austen

H4H Band of Brother Fellowship Member

Serving with the Royal Engineers on tour of Afghanistan in 2008, Ross Austen was out on a foot patrol when he came under attack. Setting a charge to blow into a compound, the enemy’s fire forced him to pull back. This resulted in him triggering an Improvised Explosive Device (IED): “It was like slow-motion. I got thrown up into the air, landed and then remember all the debris and loads of people shouting. It was crazy.”

The IED severely damaged both of Ross' legs he underwent 10 emergency operations before being flown home, spending six weeks in intensive care. He was later moved to the burns unit where the severity of his injuries hit home: “Things started going through my head and I thought ‘what am I going to do now? I’m not going to work again, be able to play sport, do anything’.”

Ross went on to spend over three years in rehab, undergoing a further 32 operations, including the amputation of his left leg. Having always kept fit and been involved in sport, he found the initial limitations his injuries brought incredibly frustrating: “I’d hit a point where I thought there was nothing else that could be done for me.”

When a friend from his squadron suggested they run a marathon together, it proved to be one of the major turning points in Ross’ recovery. Having had nothing to aim for in years, he finally had a focus: “I did the US Marine Corps Marathon on crutches. It was absolute agony, but it gave me my drive back and I progressed really quickly in my rehab after that.”

Medically discharged from the Army in 2012, Ross hoped to continue his recovery by getting involved in sport again. When he received an email from Help for Heroes, it set him on a path he never thought he’d find himself on: “H4H said there was a powerlifting competition open to anyone so I thought I’d give it a crack. I’ve since won the British Championships and am on British Weightlifting’s talent programme.”

Ross is now part of the Help for Heroes Sports Academy and hopes to be selected for the 2020 Paralympics: “To get selected would be my ultimate goal. I want to feel that pride and passion again of representing my country, something I thought I wouldn’t be doing in a million years.

“To know the British public are there backing both me and Help for Heroes is great. I’ve experienced exactly what the Charity does and without their support I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now. I’m probably happier now than before I was injured, I feel in a really good place.”

Without the public’s incredible fundraising efforts, Ross knows he wouldn’t be facing such a hopeful future. That’s why he’s encouraging people to support the BBQ for Heroes campaign so they can raise money to help more people like him: “Everyone loves a good BBQ so why not do it for charity? Hopefully there’ll a bit of sunshine!”