DAN SHEEN – PARA ALPINE
In 2000 Dan joined the army and by 2008 he was serving on tour in Afghanistan. An IED blew away his left leg, destroyed the muscle in his right leg and shattered his pelvis. It took Dan four years to recover after a number of operations and intensive therapy in Headley Court.
“Those first few years were hell. I found myself wishing I’d died in Afghanistan rather than face all the pain”.
Rebuilding his life after the explosion was a huge task. So much had changed. Then Dan was introduced to his first taste of skiing. He was invited by BLESMA in December 2015 to join the ‘Ski Spectacular’ in Colorado, run by the Hartford Foundation for injured American Soldiers. It was the first time he’d sat in a sit ski – the freedom it gave him and the rush of adrenaline meant that he was instantly hooked. “I knew from that moment that I was meant to ski”.
Dan was sign-posted to AFPST who have since helped him to develop his skills on the snow. “The charity has given me a new lease of life – something to aim for.”
DARREN SWIFT – PARA SNOWBOARD
As an athlete and mentor, double, above knee amputee ‘Swifty’ has achieved enormous success on the snow. “The charity has enabled me to make new friends in a group of like-minded people – an opportunity which is just as important as any new-found skills on the slopes”.
In 1991, 26-year-old Swifty, was on his third tour of Northern Ireland as a tracker dog handler. When out on patrol in Belfast, he was caught up in a coffee jar explosion that blew away both his legs. Twenty-seven years on, Darren reflects with his characteristic positivity:
“My recovery went as well as could be expected. At the time, I was the only conflict injury on the ward at Headley Court. It took time to physically and mentally come to terms with what had happened”.
Swifty was able to keep his faithful tracker dog Troy by his side throughout his recovery. He continued to track until his dying day and was later buried in the Lake District at a favourite spot.
TROY CONNOR – PARA NORDIC
I’ve proudly served in two Regiments during my time, starting off with my local Regiment the Duke of Wellingtons from 1996 until 2002. I missed the Military way of life and decided to rejoin in 2004. This time I wanted to really challenge myself so I went for the Elite Parachute Regiment. I was fortunate and switched on enough to be selected for 1Para SFSG.
I’ve carried out active service in Kosovo, Macedonia, Iraq and Afghanistan. It was during my last tour of Afghan in 2009 that I found myself involved in a tragic incident where an IED exploded under my vehicle. I was the only survivor. I suffered a brain injury resulting in life long epilepsy, loss of sight in the right eye, and a broken back, which left me for some time in a wheelchair. So these are the challenges I have had to face and continue to do so on a daily basis. My injuries resulted in the end of my military career. I was devastated. After the rehabilitation process I was medically discharged in September 2011.
Walking with the Wounded put me in contact with the AFPST in 2016 and I have now been on a number of trips with the AFPST Nordic Ski Team. It is a real challenge on many levels and I can now truly say that I have got the fire in my belly back and I’m feeling part of something again – a team and a family.