OPINION: Veteran Games showed our country’s champions dignity and respect
I’m a veteran who resides in the phenomena know as ‘civilian life’ in the poppy-filled countryside of Norwich. I still uphold the standards and bearing of a marine.
I was medically discharged in 2017 with a myriad of mental health issues – mind-bending psychosis, extreme anxiety, a deep, dark depression and, at the time, undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder and compounded trauma.
During my turbulent recovery after a poorly-thought out suicide attempt, I was invited to attend the Veteran Games in 2019.
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After my own life-changing experiences and performance (winning concurrent gold medals in the CrossFit event), I had the honour of being asked to be an ambassador and mentor in the 2022 Games. Knowing this would be a humbling insight and a show of humanity’s intrinsic strength, I accepted immediately.
For the uninitiated, the Veteran Games is funded entirely by British/Israeli philanthropists with a passion to support our veterans, but also their individual families.
Chris in his coveted green beret.
The love they give their partners is unending. They are the adoring glue holding together the individual family units while injured veterans rebuild their bodies, minds and spirits. They do this unseen and almost with a whisper quiet paired with a devotion I have never seen matched.
During this whirlwind week of emotions in the wondrous and progressive city of Tel Aviv, I witnessed a moment so human it will stay in my heart and soul forever.
During a break in the swimming heats, two competitors turned to each other and shook hands smiling warmly, then leant against the poolside for a chinwag. The man to the right? An English Royal Marine Commando. To the left? An Israel Defense Forces veteran. The British marine explained through simple hand gestures to the Israeli (who spoke little to no English) about his own internal struggle and personal injuries. Post-traumatic stress disorder. The invisible wound.
The Games are a breeding ground for personal growth
The Israeli nodded slowly, profoundly and very simply, gently tapped his own head with his forefinger… he understood completely, empathised. With wet eyes and a lump in my throat I slipped away to the next moment of breathtaking humanity.
The people of Israel treated these champions of Britain as they deserve, with respect and dignity.
The Games themselves are a breeding ground for personal growth but, in between these barrier-breaking moments, they provide cultural insight and spiritual balm.
British warriors visited the famous Western wall, paying reverence and respect to the Old City of Jerusalem. We ate and drank merrily with unconquered spirits in the finest restaurants and with cultural tours and food tastings.
Our wounded servicemen are indomitable, unbroken and shining examples of British resolve.
I felt a deep connection to Tel Aviv, this sun-kissed city in a country that has not only welcomed my fraternal brothers and sisters but venerated them overtly. We live in a world that, at times, does not celebrate its serving soldiers and veterans, but the people of Israel have treated these champions of Britain as they deserve, with respect and dignity.
During the flight home, I tried to pull apart the individual moments of the week that had blurred into a tapestry of profundity and British fighting spirit. Prouder than ever of my service and that of my brothers and sisters, I exchanged heartfelt hugs and firm handshakes as I left Heathrow, blissful in the knowledge that our wounded servicemen were indomitable, unbroken and shining examples of British resolve.