I am Matt Abbott, one of the founders of VetRun180. We are a Charity supporting physically and mentally injured military veterans, by taking them on challenging 4×4 off-road driving expeditions around the world, to aid in their recovery.
I am a former Royal Marines Commando. I joined the marines in 2003 at the height of the war of terror. My first combat tour was to Iraq in 2004 where I spent 7 months. In 2006 I deployed to Helmand Province Afghanistan for the first of three very kinetic war fighting tours.
At that time, I was involved is some very hard, close quarter fighting. Extremely dangerous situations, and unfortunate to have friends injured and killed. On the 3rd of Feb 2009 during a firefight a rocket hit my left leg ripping off the back of my thigh and most of my calf.
Not a good day at the office for me…
I was evacuated back to the UK and had numerous surgeries to repair the injury, but that wasn’t going to keep my career. In 2012 I was medically discharged from the Royal Marines.
I thought I was a hard, tough person but when I became a civilian I fought some of the hardest battles I had ever been in, and that was with my own brain. Flashbacks, nightmares, paranoia, aggression, depression and drinking. I was suffering with PTSD. I was in denial but everyone around me could see there was something wrong. I needed help but didn’t want it. The Royal Marines stepped in and got me some great therapy, which really got me back on track and feeling good again.
It was at this time of my recovery that I was asked to drive across the Sahara Desert in a £500 Citroen Berlingo with a group of veterans.
So I embarked on this crazy trip and after 2 weeks being challenged daily, and being part of a team again, the vets and I spoke about things we would never open up about, even with close friends and family. I came home a new man. The fire I used to have inside me had been ignited again and I felt amazing. I needed to get other veterans feeling how I did after that trip, using a simple concept but one that I knew worked.
A year and a half on since the beginning on VetRun180, we now have a fleet of land Rovers, some with hand controls and adaptions enabling us to take amputees and seriously injured veterans on our expeditions. Four expeditions have been completed. Northern Portugal, Galicia, the Empty Quarter desert in Oman and last week we completed our first UK expedition across the Yorkshire Moors, dales and the Lake District.
We have helped 40 injured veterans to date and the results have been better than I could have ever expected. In some cases, we have saved lives…
We are providing ‘adventure therapy’ and it works. Moving forward we want to continue running expeditions and help as many injured veterans as possible, there are thousands.