Help for Heroes was absolutely instrumental in my journey to the Invictus Games. The UK team going to the Invictus Games wouldn’t happen without Help for Heroes.
Zoe Williams was medically discharged from the Royal Navy in December 2015 – just as Service Personnel and Veterans were given the opportunity to register their interest in joining the UK’s team for the second Invictus Games, to be held in Florida the following year. Zoe put herself forward.
During her military training Zoe suffered from lower leg injuries but persevered and successfully commissioned. However, upon joining a ship she soon began experiencing back pain which became progressively worse. Sent for rehabilitation, in 2012 Zoe came across Help for Heroes whilst staying at Headley Court Rehabilitation Centre. After several stints in rehab, Zoe began gradually returning to sea but when she joined the ship that would be her job for the next two years, her back pain returned: “That was the point I realised that this wasn’t going to work. I started training which gave me something to focus on as I went through this turbulent time.
“Training became more and more important to me as I began the transition from military to civilian life. I found the day to day victories that I got when I was training really built my confidence and transferred into my personal life.”
Since leaving the British Armed Forces Zoe’s recovery has predominately focused around sport:
“My 2016 Orlando Invictus experience was very much about the whole journey. Almost more important than the Games were the training camps and trials because you’re surrounded by like-minded people who have been through similar experiences. So many people had turned up to compete and to prove that they could move forward from their injuries. It’s a testament to the power of sport in recovery.”
On her return from Orlando Zoe settled into a civilian career, and when it was announced that the 2017 Invictus Games would be held in Toronto – Zoe put herself forward again: “The Invictus Games is so much more than taking part in a sporting event.
“It’s about recovery, overcoming challenges and moving forward with your life. After the trials for Toronto, I felt that I wouldn’t be able to commit to the training enough to do myself justice but more than that, I saw people there who needed it more than I did.”
She is now involved in the Help for Heroes Invictus Ambassador programme, acting as a Force for Good by helping other wounded, injured and sick Service Personnel and Veterans on their road to recovery: “This has allowed me to stay involved but also to continue to help give back to people who really need this focus for their recovery. I can help others get to a similar place to where I am now.
“I hope that I can prove to people that injuries don’t have to define you, they don’t have to hold you back, you can overcome anything and if you just believe in yourself, you can succeed in everything you want to achieve.