The Invictus Games choir, supported by Help for Heroes, will be performing at Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday 18 December.
The choir was set up ahead of the second Invictus Games held in May 2016. They came together just two months previously as part of choirmaster Gareth Malone’s latest TV show, a two-part BBC documentary.
They penned the lyrics to an uplifting original song, Flesh and Blood, which was inspired by their experiences in the Armed Forces. At their emotionally-charged performance at the opening ceremony of the sporting event in Orlando, Florida they received a standing ovation from the 12,000-strong crowd which included Prince Harry and First Lady Michelle Obama.
All 12 members of the Invictus Games Choir have one thing in common. They are rebuilding their lives after suffering life-changing injuries or illness as a result of their service in the Armed Forces. Here are just a few biographies of the choir members:
Steve joined the Royal Navy in January 1987 and served in the Fleet Air Arm for 15 years. Undertaking numerous front line tours of duty, he served during the Gulf War in 1991 and completed three tours of the Balkans between 1995 and 1997. In 2000, Steve unfortunately suffered an irreparable back injury which led to him being discharged from the Naval Service two years later. In 2009, he was diagnosed with PTSD and this played a huge part in why he wanted to join the Invictus Games Choir. Having attended the first Invictus Games in London, Steve said he felt inspired to support his fellow veterans and felt the choir would present an opportunity for him to do so, not only by raising awareness of the issues surrounding PTSD but by also challenging himself in order to overcome some of his own personal battles.
James joined the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment in 2010. During his time in the British Army, James represented his Regiment at numerous ceremonial occasions including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee; Trooping the Colour and State Opening. He was also part of the military effort involved with Olympic Security in London 2012.
Whilst riding in 2013, James suffered an injury which would require surgery in order to recover. It was during the treatment of this original injury that James was diagnosed with testicular cancer at just 25 years old. Recently married, the news of his diagnosis was tough enough to bear, but further bad news was to come. James and his wife were told that as a result of his condition and subsequent treatment, he would be infertile. After going through chemotherapy, James was discharged from the Army in 2014.
“I joined the choir because I wanted to be part of the Invictus Games in some small way. To me, the choir is a means to ensure that military guys and girls on similar paths and journeys as us can have a chance to be part of this amazing experience. Hopefully that will give them a support network and promote more awareness of the wounded, injured and sick community.”
Andy proudly served in the Royal Military Police between 1974 and 1996. His life changed dramatically one Saturday morning in Colchester in November 1980. An Under Vehicle Improvised Explosive Device (UVIED), which had been planted under his car by the IRA, exploded as he and his wife reversed away from their home. Fortunately, the injuries suffered by Andy's wife, Maggie, were minor. However, the story was somewhat different for Andy who lost his right leg in the explosion and incurred injuries so severe to his left leg that an above the knee amputation was required. Not only were his lower limbs affected, but Andy also suffered damage to his fingers and his dominant hand as well as multiple scars and burns. Following the initial treatment of his injuries by the NHS and Woolwich Hospital, Andy received further treatment at Headley Court and just six months later was posted to a new desk job at RMP HQ London. Six years later, having stabilised physically and mentally, Andy retired from the British Army as a WO2 having served 22 years for his nation.
Andy’s life was turned upside down 18 years later when Maggie was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and died in 2004. With two young children, Jack and Katy, still requiring parental support, it was not until 2016 that Andy felt a void in his life. With Jack and Katy now grown up and largely independent, he saw Gareth’s the Invictus Games Choir as a “cheeky challenge”.
Alison is an ex Squadron Leader who served in the RAF as a Training and Development officer for 13 years. After completing an Operational Tour in Kosovo as a Media Operations Officer, Alison was medically discharged from the service after being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When asked about why she wanted to join the choir Alison said: “Part of my recovery plan was to find a new focus and re-engage with something I’d enjoyed previously. The choir looked like the perfect opportunity for me.”
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