Monday, 31 May 2010

Help for Heroes

The Help for Heroes boys have been down for a surf. Here's the report written up in The Sun today...

"MILLIES hero Ben McBean achieves another milestone - by going SURFING.

The former Marine, who lost an arm and a leg to a Taliban bomb, went into the sea for the first time since suffering his injuries in 2008. Ben, 23, was hailed a hero by Prince Harry after they met as he was being flown home injured from Afghanistan.

And Ben and other amputee soldiers chose to surf at Polzeath, North Cornwall - where Harry learnt the sport as a teenager.

Ripper ... Nic and Jay head out
Ripper ... Nic and Jay head out

The determined Commando previously won a Sun Military "Millie" Award for Triumph Over Adversity after running the London Marathon and climbing to Everest Base Camp.

But he admitted: "I was mega-negative about surfing. I haven't been on a beach since my injury.

"I thought it would be patronising to be pushed around on a board but you get a massive sense of freedom from being in the water so I loved it. No one stared at my leg, no one cared. It wasn't embarrassing."

Ben was joined by Nicolas Gibbons, 19, of Sheffield, and Jay Hare, 29, of Anglesea, Wales, who were also injured in 2008.

Jay and Nicolas were both with 45 Commando. Jay lost his left leg below the knee, injured his right hand and lost an eye, while Nicolas lost his right leg below the knee.

Nicolas said: "Surfing is awesome. I've never been and never thought I'd be able to do it but it was great. I'm going to take it up as a hobby."

The trio are all attached to Hasler Company, the Royal Marine rehabilitation unit based at HMS Drake in Plymouth.

Royal Navy surgeon commander Anthony Lambert operated on both Jay and Nicolas in Afghanistan. Now he dedicates part of his time looking after "his boys" as they continue to recover in the UK. Anthony said yesterday: "I know these boys really well and it's great to be able to get them out here surfing.

"They were all fit before they got injured and apart from the fact they've now got bits missing they're fitter than their civilian counterparts because of the way they are. They've got the will to succeed." In Cornwall they were with other soldiers who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Former tank crewman Rich Emerson, who now teaches injured combatants to surf, said yesterday: "The aim is to give these guys a break and help them enjoy themselves."

Rich, 44, who served with the Queen's Royal Irish Hussars during the first Gulf war in 1991, began surfing 12 years ago. He suffered from PTSD but found riding waves helped him beat his depression.

He has since formed Surf Action to support all combat veterans."

Anthony has been a long time friend of the surf school - and we thank him for asking us to get involved.

The beach is packed for the Whitsun half term - what a weather combo, sun and surf. Fantastic. Even I tickled in to a double lesson yesterday. So no sign that people are being cautious despite the economic woes. It could be that everyone has decided to make the most of the holidays. Or could it be that the sun and surf combo has just made everyone a bit crazy! We're not complaining! Happy days.

Just got one of the new West Aero wetsuits - it's a summer one and toastie, toastie warm. The neoprene has these air bubbles trapped inside. Makes a difference.

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