I had to relearn virtually everything. It was like restarting my life.
For many who set their sights on a career in the Royal Navy, it’s an opportunity to set sail and travel all over the world. But Ben Wagon had a different ambition for signing up: “I joined the Navy to gain some engineering training for the long-term. I didn’t really like the idea of going on boats – luckily I joined the Commando Helicopter Force so I was primarily in fields.”
Reflecting on his time in the Navy, Ben enjoyed his life away from home and all the intensive training and trips away the job brought: “It was excellent. I flew to Norway, went around the Mediterranean when Libya was kicking off and did a couple of beach-storming drills in Cyprus and Crete.”
Returning home in October 2011, Ben was travelling to Yeovil with his childhood sweetheart, Justine, after spending the weekend with his mother when they were involved in a fatal car accident. Sadly, Justine died from her injuries whilst Ben, who sustained a brain injury that resulted in memory loss, remained in a coma for six weeks.
Upon waking up, Ben faced the unimaginable prospect of not only trying to deal with losing the love of his life and Naval career, but also how to walk and talk again: “I had to relearn virtually everything. It was like restarting my life.”
Ben was transferred to Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre Headley Court where he spent the next two years trying to piece things back together. In a true testament to his strength of character he made remarkable progress.
As his condition continued to improve, Ben heard about Help for Heroes and the support available. Determined to keep pushing forward in his recovery, he leapt at the chance to get involved with the Charity’s Sports Recovery Programme: “That’s been really helpful. With sport you have an end goal and you recover quicker because of that.” Since his accident, he has gone on to compete at the Warrior Games, Invictus Games and run the London Marathon.
Ben describes his recovery as being all about ‘lots of mini turning points’: “Even little things like getting on the bus with my umbrella. I left it on the bus, but I remembered later that I had.”
Now, having been medically discharged from the Navy, he hopes to continue to compete in sport and even go into a business with a friend by opening a tea shop: “Tea’s not done properly, that’s what I want to bring back to Britain. Since the Second World War and the onset of teabags, it’s a lost art.”