While abseiling down a sheer rock-face as a part of a training procedure, ex-Royal Marine Jon Flint dislodged a large boulder above him. Knowing that if he didn’t alert his brakeman they would both sustain injuries, Jon shouted down to warn him of the impending danger. His brakeman instinctively let go of the rope and terrifyingly Jon plummeted 30ft from the cliff, landing on his back with his bergen drilling in to his spine. Not wanting to compromise the training mission, Jon dusted himself off and moved out with the rest of the Marines, his own self-adopted motto, ‘adapt, improvise, overcome’, determinedly at the fore of his mind.
Having faced extreme danger during tours served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, Jon’s fall during his training procedure in Scotland initially seemed insignificant. But unbeknown to him, it would resurface 13 years later, once Jon had become a Veteran to spend more time with his beloved family.
After shunting the initial pain, Jon recognised he needed medical support. Tests showed that Jon was not only carrying a stress fracture across his shoulder blades due to tours in Iraq and Afghanistan but had split the bottom five vertebrae of his spine in the fall from 13 years earlier. His doctors believed that, because of the rigorous training Jon undertook in the Marines, his core muscles had been strong enough to support his bones and keep them in place. If left untreated, Jon was in danger of becoming paralysed; Jon underwent surgery to fuse together the bottom two vertebrae of his spine.
As Jon was recovering, he was made redundant from work and it was during this time which he turned to Help for Heroes. H4H teamed up with Canine Partners, with whom we have now funded 6 successful partnerships, to provide Jon with an assistance dog. Jon describes how Varick, his ‘little black shadow’ is helping make a difference to his life:
“I’m over six feet tall and I don’t use a wheelchair so people don’t realise I’m disabled, but I can be very vulnerable when I’m out among people. It’s amazing what a difference Varick makes – people see him in his purple jacket and give me more space. You can’t put a price on how people respond to my disability now, thanks to him. Instead of talking about my injuries, which can be very negative for me, I have lovely conversations with people about Varick and that is all very positive.
"I want to thank Help for Heroes and Canine Partners so much for giving me back part of my life: for giving me Varick.”
Jon and Varick have also been able to use the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre, Tedworth House as a respite break. It was during their stay that Jon discovered the Troops to Teachers initiative, which inspired him to train to become a teacher. Jon is now studying a degree in History & Politics at Portsmouth University and hopes to be able to instil some of his military training and greatness of character to help children make the most of their opportunities at school.