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As a former soldier who served with the first battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment "The Vikings" I wanted to do a bit more for our lads than just putting money into boxes (something I will still do!).
I came across the "Paras 10 Challenge"on the "Help for Heroes" website.
The challenge involves completing the course used by the "Paras" for their "P company"which entails running (?)ten miles and carrying a Bergen (rucksack)weighing thirty five pounds (sixteen kg).
Three hours is the time allowed,Para selection is one hour fifty minutes,Territorial Army is two hours ,(correct me if I'm wrong).
I thought "I can do that".
Any Paras seeing this may say "so what" however I have been out of the Army for over thirty years and at the age of
fifty two some people may think I am being a bit ambitious never mind "crack on".
I work offshore on a drilling rig,so I asked some of my mates if they would like to join in and you can see the guys who are up for it Greg,Ewen ,Phil (ex Para),Jim, and my son Payson.
I have started my training programme and have allready knackered a civvy bergen, I wonder what it would be worth for me to keep the name of that company quiet ?.
I think I am doing allright in my training but when offshore running is abit of a problem.
I continue to gain inspiration from our brave young men and women of our armed forces,I was climbing a ladder up the Derrick on the rig at stupid O clock one night(about 0200) the ladder went up to about 100 foot vertical,and I had been up it several times that shift.
I was feeling pretty sorry for myself when I caught a glimpse of my "Help For Heroes"wristband.
I stopped for a brief moment and thought of what that little coloured rubber band signified and of the young soldiers who were having to rebuild their lives,they have a far higher ladder than the one I had to climb!.
So I called myself a few rude names and got on with the job.
I had the honour of seeing the "Vikings" parade through Norwich in 2007,I met a lad of about eighteen who looked like my son,with blonde hair and a cheeky grin,I wanted to shake his hand but was unable as he was on crutches,he had had the lower part of one of his legs blown off!.
The lads have just done another tour ,arriving home recently from Afghanistan ,We lost another five"Vikings",I don't know how many have had life changing injuries,and not just the physical ones.
There are the families as well,Mums and Dads ,Wives Girlfriends and Children,When the guys where in"Afghan"I was a bag of nerves even though I did'nt have any friends or family out there,a friend of mine was do to go but logistics got in the way,maybe a good thing?.
I spoke to Christine Bonner recently ,she lost her son Darren in Afghanistan in 2007,she wished me well in my challenge.
Please wish me well and donate to help these lads and their families,I will finish this challenge even if I have to drag myself round by my fingernails,allthough one hour fifty minutes may be a bit extreme!.
My wife Debbie bet the SIII Lightweight Landrover which belongs to my friends and I would not start after being left out in the rain with the roof off,it did !.another tenner to our lads.
The challenge has been met and the race run,what a great experience.
The weather on the day at Catterick was superb and the atmosphere was buzzing,the runners came from everywhere,we even met a couple of Americans from R,A,F Lakenheath,good on you guys and nice to meet you.
There were soldiers ,former soldiers ,and people who never had any intention of being in the Armed Forces lined up and ready to go.
What was particularly poignant were the people wearing T shirts with the names and pictures of friends and relatives who had lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan,its pretty hard to run with a lump in your throat but increased my resolve not to let the memory of these brave young people down.
The camerarderie of the runners was immense and the words spoken to me as I neared the finish line and I was starting to flag a bit of "come on mate,nearly there ,best effort"enabled me to beat the two hour mark (TA Para),thanks mate,whoever you are.
It was hard ,the course gruelling especially as I was slobbering all over the place like Great Dane,but its supposed to be I guess.
I would like to thank my son Payson my friends Greg and Ewen for taking part in this challenge with me, The Parachute Regiment for throwing down the gauntlet,and the men and women of our armed forces for their bravery and professionalism.
Some people say they know what they are letting themselves in for when they join up,well that's brave is it not?.
Thanks again to all the people who have donated their hard earned money and their support,