Next week (Tuesday 19th April), Pilgrim Bandits will be embarking on a twelve-day trek in the Himalayas, to support our injured veteran members. There will also be the opportunity to complete two tandem skydive jumps over Mount Everest.
Injured veterans and support personnel will be trekking up to Namache (DZ) and staying in tea houses along the way. Among those taking part is Richard Wilkinson, who shares his story with us.
Richard served in the British Army for 18 years. He served with the King’s Royal Hussars, the Armoured Regiment on the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank, and undertook tours of Bosnia, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan.
When he was out on operations in the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, in September 2012, Richard lost one of his colleagues to an IED blast. Whilst waiting to evacuate the area, he was shot through his lower right leg. The bullet damaged a nerve, leaving him with foot drop.
Richard explains: “My injury meant I couldn’t live the active lifestyle that I like to live and I became very depressed. I felt I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I went through years of surgery and nothing was working. I eventually made the hard decision to have my leg amputated just below the knee. Looking back, I am in a much happier place now as I can live my active lifestyle with much more ease and comfort.”
Meeting the Pilgrims
“A good friend of mine was already involved with the Pilgrim Bandits. He heard about a trip they were doing to Svalbard in the Arctic and asked if it was possible for me to come along. Before I knew it I was off to Svalbard: that was one of my most favourite adventures with the charity.
“I also took part in a kayaking expedition down the Orange River in South Africa with the Pilgrims – another amazing trip – and cycled the full length of New Zealand.
“The Pilgrim Bandits have given me a family. I meet up with fellow veterans and have what I would call ‘Army time’. We have all been through the same stuff and understand each other; we can relax, talk easily and laugh at things we have done.
“On the expeditions, we cheer each other along: no matter how challenging the task, we work as a team and complete the challenge together. I never thought I would have been able to do half the stuff that I have done with them. I wouldn’t have even thought to attempt such things. With the Pilgrim Bandits, nothing is impossible. I can’t thank them enough for this.”
Taking on the Himalayas
“The trip to the Himalayas will be an expedition of a lifetime. I always dreamed of going to the Himalayas as a kid; now my dreams have come true thanks to the Pilgrim Bandits. It will be an amazing challenge: something to tick off my list, to say even though I am disabled, I can still do it.
“I haven’t done anything like this before – trekking at high altitude is going to be the first challenge for me. I am still quite fresh of an amputee so even walking the distance is going to be a challenge.
“I am quite an active person: I enjoy mountain biking, climbing and kayaking, so my general fitness isn’t bad, however I have been out on local walks to try to strengthen my leg and get used to carrying a rucksack.”
If you would like to learn more about Pilgrim Bandits’ upcoming expeditions and how you can get involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org