Margate adult volunteers join 100 other wounded vets in celebration of family and sport at The Veteran Games and Conference

4 June 2019

A new international event for wounded armed forces veterans recently celebrated the vital roles sports and family play in physical and emotional rehabilitation. Over one hundred UK and Israeli veterans competed, tried new sports, and learnt about how their respective countries provide specialist care for those injured in combat.

The Chelsea Foundation backed the event, which was being held in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, by providing football coaching for families attending and specialist workshops for Israeli sports teachers. The programme also included a three-day conference with leading professionals discussing veteran PTSD, mental health and recovery.

The Veteran Games, which is the first of its kind, is funded by philanthropic donations and supported by leading rehabilitation and forces organisations including: The Royal Marines Charity, RAF Benevolent Fund, Rock to Recovery, Veteran Scotland, Combat Stress, The Not Forgotten Association and Association of Jewish ex-Service Men and Women (AJEX).

The five-day sporting event took place at a pioneering rehabilitation centre run by the charity Beit Halochem in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from May 26 to 30.

The entire programme is funded by donations from The Patron Charitable Initiatives, The Pears Foundation, Rachel Charitable Trust, The Wolfson Family Charitable Trust, The Exilarch’s Foundation, The Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation and The Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust.

The programme included activities for families to join together and share their experiences. There was also a conference on mental health, PTSD and recovery chaired by Sir Simon Wessely, professor of psychological medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, and consultant advisor in psychiatry to the British Army. Chairing from Israel was Professor Zahava Solomon.

Jonathan Ball, Chief Executive of The Royal Marines Charity, said:

“Our association with the Veteran Games comes through the Royal Marines sustaining a disproportionate number of casualties in recent campaigns. This has left us with a large number of Marines who have sustained life-limiting or life-changing mental and physical injuries requiring through-life support, part of which is provided through sporting or adventure challenges.

Each year at the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines, we support a Rehabilitation Triathlon, while wounded Royal Marines have won multiple medals at both the Invictus Games and Paralympics. Shared experiences for military veterans are a strong source of physical and mental healing, even more so across differing nationalities who are battling identical challenges. We are sure that this will ensure a powerful bond and new enduring friendships at the Games.

However, the experiences and battles of their dependents are often forgotten. So we are delighted that the families of our Royal Marines will meet and share with others from Britain and Israel at these Games, and will find that shared common burdens become lighter. We are immensely grateful to the Sponsors who have made this possible through their generosity.”

AUO Jamie Morris said:

“I found out about the veterans games in Israel because of Colonel Martin Newman who is the current chairman of AJAX and as someone who is proud to be Jewish I jumped at the chance to represent the UK and AJAX in the games in Israel.

When I was a teenager in Spain I used to compete in swimming so naturally I opted for this discipline. My two events were 50 freestyle and 50m backstroke, for these I did a month’s training and I won bronze in the 50m freestyle in the non-categorised event and I won gold in the 50m backstroke.

On the last day of the event we played mixed teams of Israeli veterans and UK veterans in water polo and I was lucky enough to have my fiancé Amba Cooper (aka Sgt Cooper also from Kent ACF) on my team and we won, so we both received gold medals”

Spencer Gelding, Chief Executive of Beit Halochem UK, said: “We’re extremely proud to be a founding partner of the inaugural Veteran Games & Conference. The contribution of the armed services is immeasurable, and it is our ambition to help pave the way for best practice with regards to physical and mental rehabilitation of wounded veterans.

We hope this pioneering initiative will be the start of a long-term relationship. This year was an opportunity to show the unique facilities that Beit Halochem offers to its 51,000 members and a chance to explore Israel’s rich culture and vibrant society.”