Jake Bartlett joined the British Army in 2008. Shortly after, he moved to Northern Ireland with 2nd Battalion The Rifles.
Jake deployed to Afghanistan in early 2009 for a six-month tour. A week before he was due to return home, he stepped on an IED (Improvised Exploding Device). He was flown back to the UK and spent two months in Intensive Care at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham.
The injuries to Jake’s legs were extensive: he lost his left leg below the knee and his right leg was badly damaged. He needed further amputation to his left leg due to infection. Surgeons carried out a pioneering operation to remove the calf muscle in his left leg and use it to repair his right lower leg.
Once he was well enough to leave Selly Oak Hospital, he was sent to Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre Headley Court to recover further and was then discharged.
Jake says: “It’s not easy when something like that happens to you. You don’t know what you’re going to do next. When you join the Army, you think you’re going to be in the Military for a long time and then suddenly you can’t do that anymore. You feel lost.”
Jake found out about Pilgrim Bandits when he was on a trip in Gibraltar with the Charity’s Patron, Ben Parkinson. He mentioned that Pilgrim Bandits was planning a tandem parachute jump. Another member of the group put Jake’s details forward to the Charity.
“I had always wanted to do a parachute jump. I’ve done about 10 tandem jumps now – mostly with the Pilgrims – everywhere from Netheravon in Salisbury to Dubai. I can’t explain the feeling you get when you do it. When you’re in freefall, it’s so exhilarating.
“I’ve been involved with Pilgrim Bandits since that first jump. I’ve been on lots of the expeditions that they’ve undertaken over the years. I’ve been to the Artic Circle, kayaking down the Orange River in South Africa, on an off-roading trip in California. I went to Sweden with them earlier on the Winter Survival Course.
“These expeditions challenge you physically and mentally. The best part is getting to be part of a team and a military family again. Everyone gets on well as we have a lot in common. You’re back in that military environment, with people who get what you’ve been through. The banter is back and you have that feeling of camaraderie. I would 100% recommend the Pilgrims to any injured veterans out there.
“I work from home and the expeditions give me something to look forward to and encourage me to push myself. I would tell anyone who has been recently injured to stick at it and don’t let it get you down. If you need help, talk to people.”