"Being part of a team and representing my country was something I thought I’d lost forever." - JJ Chalmers.
In May 2011 - Whilst serving in Afghanistan, JJ suffered life-changing injuries from an IED blast. Narrowly avoiding double arm amputation, he lost two fingers and was left with a badly damaged elbow, as well as face and leg injuries.
Over the past decade, he’s continued to undergo significant surgery alongside forging a successful career as a broadcaster. Find out how, thanks to your support, he overcame all odds and became the first disabled presenter to host the Olympic Games.
“I became a Royal Marine Commando as I wanted to join the greatest club on earth and be part of something bigger than myself.
After I was injured, I woke up to find my hands smashed up and my arm sewn into my stomach - I felt like I’d never walk again.
I couldn’t imagine going home. When I finally did, I had no idea how to live or what I could do that I’d care about as much as the Marines.
When I was medically discharged, in 2016, I naively believed I was fixed, but it wasn’t over. It never will be - I’ve been back for three or four significant surgeries since then and have come to realise that I essentially need maintenance - especially if want to live an active life.
My ongoing recovery means I must depend on others and initially accepting that was hard. I was a Royal Marine Commando - one minute I was blowing off the hinges and jumping out of a helicopter, the next someone was feeding me melon in a hospital bed - not because I’m a diva, but because I literally couldn’t feed myself. However, I eventually realised that, as human beings, we love helping others so it’s also okay to ask for help.
“Because Help for Heroes have done so much for me – it’s now my turn to try and do something for them..." - JJ Chalmers.
And when it comes to day-to-day support, my disability still catches me out. Looking after my kids has thrown some of the biggest challenges - mundane things like buckling them into their car seats on a cold day - my hands don’t work.
Then there’s things like riding a bike, it’s not as simple as hopping on a normal bike, I need adaptations that come at an additional expense – and disability is expensive.
Throughout these challenges Help for Heroes have been there. Their recovery services, including respite and Fellowship, supported me and my family through my numerous surgeries. And having the opportunity to meet others with a shared experience helped us all come back stronger.
Then there’s the bike they funded for the Invictus Games. After leaving the Marines I doubted myself, but that bike changed my life. It unlocked something in me which led to my broadcasting career - where I’m now presenting the Olympics! Without the bike, I don’t think any of this would have happened, and I still have it - except now I use it to go on rides with my kids.
Although I no longer need support every day, it’s reassuring to know the Help for Heroes are there - because I could end up in hospital next week. A piece of shrapnel in my leg from Afghanistan or a plate in my elbow could go at any time - it’s happened before and can happen again. Knowing they’re on hand allows me to get on with my life.
And because Help for Heroes have done so much for me – it’s now my turn to try and do something for them as a Patron - that’s why I joined the military, to serve others. There are wounded, like me, who need support for the rest of their lives. And there will be many more like me seeking help in the future. As a Patron I hope I can help the Charity continue to give strength to our wounded – ensuring every veteran, and their loved ones, get the support they deserve, for life."
Injured veterans like JJ Chalmers need us now more than ever. Join us and find out the many ways in which you can give support today such as fundraising and donating. #StrongerTogether.
If you are a wounded veteran or loved one looking for support or advice, find out more about the many ways in which you can get support.