David Henson, MBE and Captain of the British Armed Forces Team in the Invictus Games talks about his experience in Afghanistan and speaks about why he is walking home for Christmas this year.
I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, leading a small team of soldiers in the search for Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) as part of the Counter IED task force. In February 2011, during a compound search in the South West of Helmand Province, I stepped on an IED. This all happened incredibly suddenly, one minute I was walking through the compound and the next I was on the ground looking down at the remains of my legs. I remember thinking firstly about my family and then about the implications - my life was going to be completely different from this point forward.
As a wounded serviceman coming back from operations, the challenges I faced were huge, not least of which the knowledge that I'd have to sacrifice the career I'd trained so hard for. However, with the help of a strong network of friends and family I managed to make a good start in my recovery and was walking again in 8 weeks. Everyone experiences dark times during recovery but, over time you adjust, learn how to cope and realise just how lucky you are to be here.
Being in the army, I have always been an active person. I was determined not to let my injury stop me. When my dad and brothers said they were going to take part in the Great Swim Series (a series of open water swims) I made it my goal to take part with them. I watched them compete in the first two while I was waiting for some wounds to heal before I completed with them in the Great London Swim. I continued to build on my fitness and this year captained the British Armed Forces team in the Invictus Games which was an incredible honour and a very humbling experience.
I was so lucky to have such a strong network of people around me helping me back to recovery. However many of my military colleagues haven't been quite so fortunate. Returning from war and becoming a veteran can be daunting. Many ex servicemen and women have found it difficult to get a job and others to support themselves financially. In many cases, they don't have friends or even family to turn to and this has resulted in them becoming homeless. The challenge to get their lives back on track seems impossible and many of them just don't know where to turn.
That's why we need to get together and do something to stop military veterans from becoming homeless and losing their livelihoods. This year, Walking With The Wounded are supporting our homeless veterans through their Walking Home For Christmas campaign. They are encouraging people up and down the country to ditch the bus, car and tube and walk home for Christmas to support those veterans who don't have a home to walk to. All the money raised will go towards Walking With The Wounded's Home Straight programme which focusses on supporting wounded, injured and sick veterans who have become homeless and getting them back into work.
The Campaign will take place between 15th and 26th December 2014. Whether you walk one or one hundred miles, it doesn't matter, taking part is what will make the difference.
You can sign up for the event here: http://walkingwiththewounded.org.uk/support-the-walk/wwtw-events/walking-home-for-christmas-2014/