Jon (Frenchie) Le Galloudec
In May 2007, I arrived in Basra for a six-month tour of duty alongside my friend, Corporal Rodney Wilson. In the early morning of June 7 I was part of an arrest and detain operation in the Al Atiyah district. During the mission we came under attack and I was shot in the spine. Initially it just felt like I'd been hit in the back by a sledgehammer. It took me completely by surprise. During the rescue attempt, Rodney ran 50 feet or so, under heavy fire, to save me. He picked me up and started dragging me to safety. When we were about 20 feet from cover, I heard a massive thud and I fell to the ground. That's when I knew Rodney had been hit.
Tragically Rodney Wilson died instantly, making the ultimate sacrifice so that I might live. I was operated on at the field hospital at Basra Air Station. The bullet had struck my spine, ripping through my gut and a kidney. Later, I was flown to Birmingham's Selly Oak hospital, before I was then transferred to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where I stayed for nearly three months.
It was at Stoke Mandeville that I was told I would never walk again, however, me being me, I stubbornly ignored them, and two months after I was shot I took my first wobbly steps. The first time I walked I was in tears, my mum was in tears, even the nurses were in tears - I just didn't think it would ever happen for me. I was told that I would always be in a wheelchair so walking out of the hospital, three months later, and proving them wrong, was one of the best days of my life.
I then spent 18 months at DMRC Headley Court, where I learnt how to walk again and adjusted to life as a wounded soldier. The beauty of Headley Court was that no matter how badly your day was going, you would see someone who had no legs or who was badly burnt and you'd realise that everyone is struggling. Ultimately, we'd give each other hope. It would have been all too easy to sink into a dark depression and lose control of my life, but I made a promise to Rodney that I would live my life to the full, embracing every opportunity.
Part of living my life to the full has involved embracing adaptive sports and adventures, always pushing myself to try new things and to step out of my comfort zone. In October 2009, I was part of a group of five wounded soldiers who took on the challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for Help for Heroes. After an arduous seven days, we reached the summit. The conditions were freezing, with temperatures around 17 degrees below, but I didn't care about the cold; it was such an emotional moment for me, as I realised that in so many ways I'd been able to overcome my disability and had learnt that I truly could live a life beyond injury. I thought learning to walk again was hard, but getting to the summit of Kilimanjaro was so much harder! It was painful, tough and at times I wanted to quit, but ultimately the challenge gave me a new lease of life and a thirst to do more to help other people who have suffered a life-changing injury or illness whilst in service of our country.
Kilimanjaro was my first real taste of adventure and what I gained from that experience is more valuable than I can explain. On that mountain I learnt that I could achieve anything I put my mind to, that my life wouldn’t be dogged by disability and pain. But, rather, my life was suddenly full of amazing opportunities and experiences.
Since 2009, I have trekked to Everest Base Camp, I have taken part in adaptive diving, skiing & canoeing. I have been to Paralympic talent ID camps in Canada & San Diego and have taken up Para Ice Hockey and play with both the GB Team and Cardiff Huskies. I also won two bronze medals at the 2013 Warrior Games and the 2014 Invictus Games in swimming, however, Para Ice Hockey has been my main focus since trying it out in Canada 2013. I have since represented Great Britain in Para Ice Hockey at the World Championship, Pool B in Sweden and Japan where we narrowly missed out on a bronze medal.
I am involved with a few military Charities like Help for Heroes, Endeavour Fund and Pilgrim Bandits who support our nation's Wounded, Injured and Sick personnel. I helped to fundraise for Help for Heroes for both my Kilimanjaro & Everest Base Camp Treks. Additionally, I am also a Hero Ambassador and have given inspirational talks to a wide range of groups, organisations and companies in my role as an Ambassador for Help for Heroes.
I am now living deep in the Wiltshire countryside with my own little slice of paradise as I continue on the treadmill of life eagerly awaiting my next adventure.