2012 was an incredible year for Rory. In the January he and a team of former Servicemen – two able-bodied and four injured – successfully crossed the Atlantic in a rowing boat. This was a 3,000-mile journey from La Gomera in the Canaries to Barbados, and the team raised £1 million for wounded soldiers as part of the Row2Recovery campaign.
That summer, Rory gave a speech at the closing ceremony of the Paralympics in London, inspiring an audience of more eight million worldwide with the words: “Tonight we celebrate that spirit and, although we have many differences, there is one quality we all share, one thing all of us have in common: human spirit.”
In Rory, that spirt is indomitable.
Born in South Africa, Rory served in the British Army as a Combat Medical Technician for nine years. In 2007 he was victim to a road-side bomb; the device killed a fellow soldier, and forced the amputation of Rory’s right leg. Despite initially falling into a cycle of decline with weeks of operations, Rory, with the support from his family, started to show signs of recovery. After a further seven months at Headley Court, including many hours in the prosthetics department, Rory made a complete physical recovery.
“I first heard about Help for Heroes when I was at Headley Court. Bryn and Emma Parry had just been to Selly Oak hospital to visit the wounded and decided they wanted to help. I was asked to take part in the first video they made to ask people to donate. The response was amazing – it wasn’t just about the money but the public getting behind us. It helped me to accept my new disability because so many millions of people were supporting us. This gave me a new sense of purpose.”
Rory completed the first Help for Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride before carbon fibre was used in bicycles, which meant he cycled the 300 miles on an original lead-lined hand bike. “It was a real endeavour to get up a hill. Fellow cyclist and Band of Brothers member Martin Hewitt towed me up a lot of them! The bike ride was wonderful; it solidified the charity for me and I accepted that I was wounded but raising money for my peers and those that would come after me – forging a path for them.”
Rory was still grieving the loss of his leg and, at times, felt defeated by what had happened. When Help for Heroes invited him to try adaptive skiing in Germany, through a programme called Battle Back, he began to feel that all was not lost. The freedom and exhilaration of skiing allowed him to forget his disability, and gave him the confidence to approach life with a genuinely positive outlook.
“Learning to ski was daunting but amazing. It was turning point in my recovery and my mental wellbeing. The charity then went on to help me massively – from funding the adaptations of my home, to supporting my endeavours. I need to keep active in the adventure world, and busy – moving forward. My job is talking about this at corporate events so I must remain current. This is how I support myself and my wife Lara, with our first baby due in October 2017. I get depressed if I don’t do something.
“To those who have support Help for Heroes: thank you, thank you so much. Your donations and generosity have helped more than I can put into words – please don’t stop. We’re still here, just because it’s not on the front page of the news every day it doesn’t mean that there aren’t thousands of us struggling every day. We need you.”