Saturday, March 29, 2014

Why "Battling Back"?

Hi everyone,

In this post I want to explain why I’ve given both the blog and more importantly the charity challenge coming up in October/ November the title of “Battling Back”. There are multiple reasons and so the post will be a long one, but it is by it’s very nature so important.

We begin by going back to my early childhood, to a conversation I heard between two adult relatives. The older relative was talking to the younger about his experiences of serving with the British Army in Africa during the Second World War. Despite being so young, I was transfixed by the conversation and so began my interest in the military.

A few years passed by and then, during my 10th grade, I went to France on a school trip, to the Battlefields of the Somme. During that three day February vacation, the fog, which made visibility almost nil, never lifted. This made what I was already expecting to be an emotional experience, into a life changing event for me.

During those three days, we didn't just visit many of the cemeteries where the thousands upon thousands of heroes where laid to rest. We also walked in the very trenches and across the crater scarred battlefields where they fell, including those at Passchendaele.

On our last evening, we visited the Menin Gate at Ypres, for the sounding of the Last Post. The ceremony takes place every evening to commemorate all those who gave their lives.

Though I was born almost 60 years after the end of the war, those three days brought everything totally to life for me. I was there, amongst the brave boys, for that's all many of them were. I saw what they saw, I felt what they were feeling, the nerves, the dread of what was around the corner or overhead. Those three days have helped shape the person I am today. A PROUD supporter of the military, PROUD of the men and women who risk, and all to often pay, with their lives. Men and women doing a job they love, for their country, fighting for the freedom of others.

In 2007, a British couple started a charity with the aim of “doing their bit” for wounded service personnel. I’ve been a supporter of “Help for Heroes”, (H4H), since the charity was just days old, proudly wearing my turquoise, blue and red wristband constantly, to the point where you can even see it in pics taken moments after my daughter’s birth.

In 2009, a group of friends, who I’d met through Facebook, hiked Hadrian’s Wall in northern England for H4H, a distance of 84 miles in 5 days. I was inspired to join them the following year, but me being me (I’m not the most patient of people), I decided to do something else just as challenging before then, but unfortunately that event had to be postponed for business reasons. I was very disappointed at having to postpone, but as a friend said to me at the time “Sometimes you have to focus on YOU. There are certain things that are important to all of us; things outside of ourselves; good things and worthy things; worthy of attention from ourselves and others; but sometimes we have to focus on ourselves, HAVE to.”

Then that November, indeed the day after Thanksgiving, I received an email from a complete stranger. He’d seen the postponed event for the charity and rather generously invited me to join him on his own and I read the email in a state of disbelief. The offer was to join with him and a group of others in hiking Hadrian’s Wall, the starting date being December 28, 2009, just 31 days later. After thinking about it and talking to my closest friends, I decided to take him up on the offer.

During each of the days that followed and indeed during the event itself, I kept a detailed journal, which I’ll share with you in a number of future posts here on the blog. It was another life changing event for me. When it ended, though weakened in body, I was strengthened in spirit and determination.

In the days that followed even as I recovered, I resolved to work towards another challenge, which would this time not only raise funds for H4H, but because by that point I’d adopted America as my home, also for a US based military charity.

The resolve to share the funds was strengthened when, in May 2010, the son of a childhood friend of one of my best friends was critically injured and lost his leg while serving with the US Marines in Afghanistan. I didn’t know either of them then, but in the weeks that followed, I got to know Margaret and learned that not only had her youngest son, Eli, been recently injured, but her eldest, Alex, had also been less severely so while also serving with the Marines in Iraq. I knew then that I wanted Margaret to be the one to nominate the US charity.

Unfortunately, as the months passed and I watched with so much admiration as Eli got stronger, my own health, both mental and physical, deteriorated to the point where the challenge had to be postponed indefinitely.

Now though, having recovered my mental strength to the point where I feel stronger than I truly have ever felt, I’m as determined as ever, if not more so, that the charity challenge will DEFINITELY be going ahead this year. However I won’t, for now, reveal the exact nature of the challenge, instead you’ll have to wait for another post for that. SORRY, but I will say this...

I’ve today written to Margaret asking her to nominate the US charity, as I always promised I would.

The challenge will conclude on November 11, 2014, Veteran’s Day, by way of a tribute to all who have served in the military and who are themselves BATTLING BACK.

In training for the challenge, having regained my mental strength, I’ll be BATTLING BACK to peak physical health.

Before concluding this very long post, I’d like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who has served and continues to serve and protect. Each one of you, together with others, are my inspiration.

God bless

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