An inspirational local army veteran has been selected to represent Team UK at the 2020 Invictus Games in the Netherlands.
The Invictus Games is the international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women, both serving and veteran. It will be held from 9-16 May.
Jules Allen, 48, who lives in Somerset and frequently visits Burnham-On-Sea to see family and friends, first applied for the Invictus Games in 2017 with the hope of joining Team UK in Sydney in 2018. He wasn’t selected on that occasion, but that just made him more determined to succeed.
Fast forward on, and he’s on his way to The Hague this year as part of Team UK for the Invictus Games 2020 where he will be taking part in wheelchair sports such as power lifting, rugby and wheelchair racing.
“I used the experience of applying for Sydney as a bit of a fact finder,” says Jules.
“It was the first time I’d done anything like that, so I didn’t necessarily expect to get selected. I didn’t get down about it.”
“I was figuring out what I needed to do and then moved on to my next goal of competing at the Invictus UK Trials in Sheffield in July. From that I applied for The Hague and I’m so pleased to be representing my country. It’s amazing.”
Jules suffered a back injury on exercise in Germany in 1988 while taking part in an armed combat display. Although serious enough for him to be medically evacuated at the time, it was believed that he had recovered after treatment so he continued his service. As Jules says, the nature of the job meant “if you hurt yourself you just carried on.”
Jules left the Army in 1993. The following year he tried to take his own life after a difficult period transitioning out of the military and undergoing back surgery, but was supported back to health by Yeovil Hospital.
It was only in 2014, twenty years later, that he finally received a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), attributed to his time serving in Northern Ireland and the atrocities he witnessed.
As well as learning to cope with PTSD, Jules has continued to suffer from the back injury sustained previously. He underwent surgery, after years of self-medicating, in 2016, 2017 and again this year; the last of which was just one month before the Invictus UK Trials but he was so adamant that he would be attending, he recovered at a rate far faster than expected and was cleared to take part.
“Sports recovery is making me stronger, it’s making me feel better,” explained Jules. “I’ve reduced my medication as I’m focusing on the sports. I want to spread awareness of the help that’s available through Help for Heroes and the Invictus journey. Help for Heroes never gave up on me.”
“They grabbed hold of me and pointed me in the right direction. I’m so glad they accepted me onto the Sports Recovery programme because I’ve used it to set goals to keep aiming for what you can achieve.”
Jules is in no doubt that his involvement in sports is as beneficial for his family as it is for him. His wife Kim, who is his full-time carer, sees a difference daily, and he wants to inspire his son who attends a special needs school.
“My wife says when I’m training I’m a lot calmer. I can cope with things day to day. In Wheelchair Rugby I can’t stop smiling. Being part of a team drives me on. Powerlifting helps me take out any aggression I have on the weights and when I’m wheelchair racing I’m free of my mobility issues.”
“I want to show my son, who has a mental disability, that you can achieve your goals no matter what.”
Jules is channelling his energy into training for the Invictus Games. Once a week he makes a three-hour round trip from his Somerset home to train with Bristol Bears Wheelchair Rugby Club, where he hopes to inspire members of multiple abilities to keep reaching for their goals.
“Being around the right people, I’ve been inspired by their attitude and self-belief. I applied for the Games because I was encouraged by others who had taken part to try. While I was recovering from surgery, something twigged, and I thought if they could do it maybe I could too. It’s been a long journey, but I want people to know that even if you’re disabled, you can still do things like this.”
Jules also met Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer, last month during his visit to Burnham town centre, as pictured here. The Chancellor was impressed to hear his story.