I was medically discharged from the Royal Marines after a seventeen-year career. At the same time, I experienced a number of life changes and was struggling to envisage what the future would hold. I was lacking a sense of purpose and challenge in my life. I was intrigued when I received an email from my former rehabilitation troop (Hasler) Sgt Major with information about Vetrun180. I thought to myself “The concept sounds amazing; I should put myself out there and get involved”. So, I decided to get in touch. I know for some reading this, that will be the hardest part. Please do get in touch, you won’t regret it. I can’t recommend getting involved enough.
My first trip was an off-road expedition from the east coast of Scotland to the west coast. We were trained in off-road driving and first aid before setting off. We travelled through Scotland’s picturesque and often imposing highland estates, wild camping along the way. Camping in a vehicle roof tent was a first for me. We had opportunities to participate in husky sledging, clay pigeon shooting, rifle shooting and to visit historical monuments during the expedition. I was lucky to be invited to repeat this expedition a year later. Both expeditions were brilliant and the ethos of the charity was something I began to completely believe in. I was keen to be more involved and enable other veterans to gain the same experiences and numerous benefits that I have.
The following year I was invited to participate in a snowmobiling expedition into the Arctic Circle in Sweden. Travelling across the frozen Bothnian sea, seeing the local wildlife, witnessing the Aurora Borealis (Northern lights), ice fishing, staying in log cabins and local historic buildings, learning about the culture and history of the area are just a few of the highlights of an amazing expedition.
I have since gained my snowmobile qualification and have the exciting opportunity to be a team leader and help guide another group of veterans on an expedition through Arctic Sweden.
After these experiences, I fully bought into the concept, ethos and ideals of Vetrun180. Getting a team of wounded, injured and sick veterans from A to B via mechanical means, camping, cooking and navigating along the route whilst experiencing and immersing yourself in the local culture, the stunning and often dramatic environment, and getting to know people with similar experiences to yours, is a simple concept, but a nonetheless effective one. The groups quickly bond, with the goal being to safely reach the destination as a team and laugh a lot along the way. In my experience it’s the simple things that make it work – preparing the food, helping one another set up tents, sharing a meal around an open fire, and just sitting and chatting during the evenings in a beautiful remote landscape.
Helping each other when the vehicles get stuck is another one that brings the team together. I’ve personally lost count as to how many times I’ve disappeared up to my neck in either a bog or snow trying to help a teammate become unstuck. This bonding and camaraderie can create an environment that many veterans miss or lack in their lives. They feel they can be more open, discuss things they often don’t, relate better to those around them, regain a sense of belonging and a level of comfort they often don’t attain in their day-to-day lives. The benefits of this should never be underestimated.
Being involved with Vetrun180 is something I always look forward to. It has increased my level of self-worth when I’ve felt negative. It has enabled me to feel useful as an integral part of a team again, something I have missed since leaving the Royal Marines. I’ve gained a sense of purpose and a renewed belief in the fact that life should be lived. It has been a constant, when things are sadly unpredictable. The charity, its trustees, my fellow team leaders and beneficiaries have often enabled me to regain my smile when life has been particularly tough. So, put yourself out there and get involved!
If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you!
Mack -Vetrun180 Team leader & beneficiary.