EX-SOLDIERS took on a gruelling triathlon in the hope of helping armed forces veterans struggling with civilian life.
Veterans Gary Davies, Phil Williams, Ronnie Devlin, Richard Davies and Dave Nolan all took part in the event which is fundraising for the project Change Step, a support service for ex- military servicemen and women. Gary, 42, and Phil, 41, both from Bangor cycled 150 miles across North Wales last week whilst Ronnie, 46, and Dave, 29, both from Prestatyn were accompanied by Richard, 40, from Rhyl on their 50 mile walk. The guys marched from Llangollen to Prestatyn along the Offa’s Dyke path and Clwydian hills.
Change Step is a project run by charity CAIS in which trained ex-soldiers offer support to other veterans suffering with problems such as substance misuse or post traumatic stress disorder, as many veterans struggle to readapt to civilian life after leaving service.
Cyclist Phil Williams, 41, served as a team leader and sniper with the First Battalion Welsh Guards between 1988 and 1993 and was proud of the lads’ achievement.
“It was tiring but it was good fun. I kept setting myself little challenges every day,” he said.
”The worst hill climb was on the last day between Wrexham and Coed Poeth, it just kept going and going. I think all the lads are proud as it was for a good cause.”
He added: “Change Step provides a service like no other, it’s a service for ex-service men run by veterans themselves.”
The triathlon, which started Monday, finished with a swimming relay event at the Nova Centre in Prestatyn on Thursday. Barclays’ Ben Copeland of the Rhyl branch also took part in the swim and volunteer Mervyn Jones from Llanrwst joined the final part of the walk.
The cycle ride passed through Bangor, Caernarfon, Pwllheli, Porthmadog, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Bala, Corwen, Llangollen, Wrexham, Ruthin, Denbigh and Prestatyn.
Geraint Jones is the Change Step project manager at CAIS and explained why the service is needed.
“Many ex-servicemen and women struggle without the camaraderie they experienced in the armed forces once they leave, especially after they’ve served in combat,” he said.
“This combined with substance misuse problems together with post-traumatic stress disorder can make it very difficult for people to find their place in society once they’ve left the military which can lead to spiralling problems “Change Step is a fantastic project. Many veterans have given everything for their country but struggle once they leave. We are here now to support those who need it. “This was a fantastic effort by all the lads and I want to congratulate them on their real hard work.”
Carl Borum, 53, has run the Tudor Lodge in Porthmadog with his wife Anja since 2006. The couple, who provided accommodation for the cyclists, have two grown up children who have served in the forces. Samantha, 26, serves in the Royal Navy and Robin, 24, served until recently as a Royal Marine. “We are supporting this as we know the pressures the military are under,” he said. “The veterans are coming out into a different world and there is no major support. My son has toured Afghanistan and he has suffered trauma. He’s stayed on the straight and narrow but I understand how it can affect people.”
The event, which was match-funded through Barclays, was supported by several businesses including the Tudor Lodge in Porthmadog, The Wynnstay Arms Hotel Wrexham, The Plas Coch Hotel Bala, Halfords in Bangor and the Nova Centre in Prestatyn.