On Sunday afternoon Brianna Golightly, 3, was at home in the UK watching her dad, Gaz, being presented with a bronze medal after the cycling event at the Warrior Games via a live internet stream. Brianna turned to her older sister and asked: “Will daddy get any more medals?” Five year old Clarissa’s response was: “It doesn't matter because our daddy is awesome!”
The moment must have soon been forgotten as the girls, speaking to their dad on the phone, later told Gaz he has to get them another medal as they can’t share one! But he did add that their parting words before leaving home for the Games were ‘if you don’t come back with any medals we still love you anyway’. His children, including baby Jason, who turns one on Friday, found the time to make a banner for 'Our Daddy, Our Warrior, Our Hero'.
Gaz was involved in a road traffic accident on his way to guard duty which resulted in his right leg being amputated, a shattered pelvis, nerve damage and sacral plexus damage.
“My army career was cut short,” said Gaz. “I became very withdrawn and a shell of my former self. I have amazing family support where two and a half years ago I was pushed into wheelchair basketball by my wife Dee and from there my confidence has grown tremendously. This also could not have happened without the support of Help for Heroes, who helped with my confidence and put me back into an environment where I was able to be myself and part of a team again. This means the world to me and I cannot thank them enough for believing in me!
“Sport has brought out my passionate side again. It has taught me discipline, grown my confidence and helped me talk to people. I’m a lot louder on the court than I am normally. Two years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do this interview. I did Hero Ride in 2013 and ended up speaking to the media during the event as no one else would. That was the start. Then I was asked to officially open Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick which has helped me with so much.
“I’ve just got a lad I trained with to try wheelchair basketball. I’d heard he had an accident while serving and I reconnected with him to tell him about the opportunities he could have. He’s now signed up with Help for Heroes and getting his life back on track.
“The Games mean a lot to me as it’s not only being part of a team again, it’s representing my country and Armed Forces. As my career was cut short I feel I am giving back in a different way. The Warrior Games is a chance for all injured serving and ex-serving to come together as a team and be shoulder to shoulder again when at times each and every one of us would have believed this would never happen again.”
Dee, Gaz’s wife, shared her thoughts: “The Games are fantastic and mean so much to each and every one of our lads and lasses in different ways; it also means a lot for us back home to see our husbands and partners blossom from it. It’s like a light gets switched on when Gaz is involved with these games and all the sports Help for Heroes offer from Sports Recovery. Our injured become a team and it helps them to see that they are not alone and for us at home it extends our families and we all become close and support each other, no matter where in the country we are!”
Gaz has a message for his three children: “Daddy’s working hard and I’ll see you soon.”
Going for the bull
Twelve archers, eight hours on the range and countless arrows later, the British Armed Forces team emerged with a bronze medal on Monday (22 June).
The Army made a clean sweep of the golds in the compound and recurve individual and team events leaving a battle for the remaining silver and bronze medals.
It was in the recurve team competition, consisting of David ‘H’ Hubber, James Hamilton and Declan O’Halloran, that our team claimed their bronze; a medal that could have easily been a gold had the trio not missed out on shooting a round of six arrows due to confusion over the starting instruction.
James Hamilton said: “We missed six shots in the first round as we didn’t know what was happening. On a points basis we should have won. We shot the perfect round. If we had done that in the first round we would have smashed it.
“It’s nice to be somewhere I can prove myself. It’s my first solo competition and to think I only missed out on the individual competition final by seven points and won a bronze in the team event is a great achievement.”
In the individual recurve competition David ‘H’ Hubber, a veteran Army Corporal, had been showing a strong performance all day. He placed third in the heats, elimination and semi-final, but finished in fourth overall in the bronze medal play off, only just missing out.
David said: “I was third all day long and then came fourth. I was disappointed but it’s all about the spirit of the Games. My peers were fantastic. I feel I let them down a little by missing out on the bronze, but I made it here so I already feel like a winner for being included in the Warrior Games. At the end of the day I got one bronze and very nearly another. I can’t complain, I’m just glad to be here.”
Colonel Stewart McConnell, Joint Forces Attaché with the British Embassy in Washington, was supporting the team at the event having been asked to present one of the medals.
Col. McConnell said: “As a platform for recovery the Warrior Games is phenomenal. When I look at the inclusion of not just the individual but also the families and others who haven’t come across wounded warriors before it’s great. The US is a country which looks after its injured servicemen unbelievably well and we’re starting to see that echoed in the UK.
“For me it’s an honour to be asked to present a medal on behalf of all wounded warriors but as a Brit being asked to attend a US event like this it really is an honour.”