A Sheffield man is among more than 40 wounded veterans and Serving personnel who have just returned home from competing in Help for Heroes annual ‘Phoenix Winter Games.
Alan Lane, who served with the 1st battalion Prince of Wales’ Own regiment of Yorkshire for 18 years before being medically-discharged, was a member of the team from the Charity’s northern Recovery Centre, Phoenix House in Catterick, which competed against the other three Centres (in Colchester, Plymouth and Tidworth).
Four days of grassroots level sports, themed around the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, gave those involved the opportunity to be a part of a team again - something that is often missed when leaving the military.
The Games, held at Tedworth House Recovery Centre in Wiltshire, kicked off with 15 Alaskan Malamutes pulling team members in a Sled Dog race down a 30m chute, with the fastest finish time resulting in victory.
The rest of the week included Ice Hockey, Clay Shooting, Skiing and Curling, all of which culminated with an awards dinner where the team from the Naval Service Recovery Centre in Plymouth were announced as victors.
Alan, who joined the army straight after leaving Brook School in Sheffield, suffers from PTSD and compartment syndrome. The Winter Games was his first experience of a Help for Heroes activity and, although he admitted he’d been very nervous about taking part, he thoroughly enjoyed the experience, in particular the dog sledding and ice hockey.
“It gave me a chance to get in touch with people I’ve not seen in years and speak to each other about our problems,” said the 47-year-old.
“I was nervous at the beginning about getting to know the rest of the team but, once I’d got into the team spirit, it felt like we’d known each other for years and my spirits felt really lifted.”
Millie Lepic, Physical Development Coach from Phoenix House, who accompanied and trained the team from the north of England and Scotland, said the Games were designed to bring together wounded, injured and sick veterans and service personnel in a friendly yet competitive environment, where they could re-experience the camaraderie and social environment of the military.
“Sport can be a huge part of the recovery journey for an individual, giving them a sense of purpose and empowering them to challenge themselves. The Games are a fantastic example of what military personnel can achieve post injury.”
Alan’s participation has now given him the confidence to try new activities and his wife Clare has joined Help for Heroes Band of Sisters support network for those who care for wounded and injured veterans.
Both have booked in to stay at the Charity’s northern Recovery Centre, Phoenix House in Catterick, North Yorkshire next week where Clare will attend a Mental Health Awareness Course so that she can better understand and help Alan; while he plans to spend time in the Centre’s wood workshop and gym.