Wounded, injured and sick veterans and service personnel spent three days at Mersea Island Outdoor Activity Centre as part of their recovery programme, organised and funded by Help for Heroes.
The group set off from the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in Colchester, Chavasse VC House, and began their three day challenge navigating a set of low ropes designed to develop trust, team work and communication skills. Working with a range of injuries including leg, back, neck and spinal problems as well as illnesses such as cancer the six men and one woman, all of whom have been or will be medically discharged from the Armed Forces, supported each other to get around the course without touching the ground.
Once completed, some of the team moved on to the 24’ climbing wall and aerial runway whilst others whose injuries prevented them from accessing these activities demonstrated their own extraordinary power by hoisting themselves on the assisted high ropes. By the end of an exhausting but rewarding first day the team headed back to their log cabin base camp to cook for each other and practise domestic independence, which in itself can be a challenge following injury.
The second day, 11 November, was always going to be emotionally draining and after spending time down at the beach to mark the two minute silence, the camaraderie really shone through. Huddled in a cluster and holding their berets they remembered their fallen friends but were determined to live firmly in the present. Donning overalls and protective helmets they then set about performing a staged cave rescue in purpose built caves. For some, just entering the dark confined space was a huge achievement as they confronted their fears.
It was during this task that their military training really came to the fore; splitting into small teams to search and rescue, map interpretation and communication flowed effortlessly and within no time they had found the ‘casualty'. After a vital food re-fuelling pit-stop, the next challenge was archery which brought out a healthy competitive spark amongst heroes and staff.
The final day was a walk around the island and a chance to meet the Recovery Centre's latest Induction class. This group of wounded serving personnel, who are new to the recovery process, got the chance to chat with our small team of Heroes already along the recovery pathway. They were able to reassure their fellow colleagues that charities such as Help for Heroes were there for them every step of the way, for life.
“Thrilling”, “challenging” and “fun” were some of the words used to describe the trip and as if this wasn’t praise enough the wife of one of our Heroes, who is herself a Help for Heroes Band of Sisters member, spotted him smiling in a photograph, wrote:
“My OH (other half) is on a Band of Brothers break organised by the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre, Chavasse VC House, I have just seen pictures of him SMILING. I can’t even remember the last time I saw him with a natural, unforced smile. Really made my day”.