Alan White had his heart set on a career in the Armed Forces from an early age: “My uncle was in the Army and I always wanted to be a soldier. I was in the scouts for most of my childhood and had always had an outdoor life.”
Joining the Royal Marines in 1992, Alan served across the globe: “I was in Germany for three years and was out in Iraq, Cyprus, Sierra Leone and the Gulf twice. I was very busy, but it was a really good time.”
Hoping to gain a promotion, he was out on a training exercise when a freak accident changed everything for Alan and his family: “I was doing a speed march when a disc came out of my back, leaving me paralysed all down my right leg. They had to remove the disc where it was damaging the spinal cord and nervous system. I’ve got no sensory feeling in my leg and went on to have bilateral hip replacements.”
It was a huge setback for Alan and he was left in a very dark place, later being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): “It was due to the trauma of all my injuries, what I went through in Iraq and growing up in Northern Ireland in an area that was very high in the Troubles.”
He and his wife knew he needed help but Alan, in keeping with his military mindset, was reluctant to ask for it: “The way I look at it, there’s always someone else worse off and who needs something more than me.” It meant he started self-medicating by drinking too much and shutting himself away, a cycle he didn’t think he’d be able to escape from.
Finally having the courage to reach out for support, Alan sought treatment for his PTSD and also joined Help for Heroes’ Band of Brothers fellowship: “Asking for help was the hardest thing. It was very emotional, because from always being able to do things with my family I got to a point where I couldn’t do that or work properly.”
Now he’s taken up handcycling and is hoping to earn a private pilot’s licence: “Help for Heroes has given me funding for a handbike and have helped with sponsorship towards getting my pilot’s licence so that’s absolutely fantastic. My wife is a Band of Sister and they’ve done stuff for our children too. The Charity helps you get your life back.”