‘I wanted to make my kids proud’

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BECOMING an inspiration to his diabetic children has pushed this dad close to breaking point as he braved some of the toughest military training the world can offer for a new TV series.

For the past three weeks millions have tuned in to watch Horndean builder Gary Burch being put through his paces on BBC Two’s Special Forces – Ultimate Hell Week.

The programme sees tough veterans from the globe’s most elite military units ‘weeding out the weak’ by pushing 22 ordinary civilians to their physical and mental limits.

So far, superfit Gary, 33, has excelled on the show, and has reached the mid-point of the 12-day ordeal.

But the dad-of-three said the punishing regime of gruelling endurance feats and psychologically-demanding tests have been worth all the pain to inspire his children, Shanelle, 16, Gary, 10 and Ronnie, seven.

Both Shanelle and Gary have Type 1 diabetes – a condition their ultra marathon-running dad wants to prove is no barrier to living a full life.

Gary, of Rosemary Way, said: ‘I just wanted to make my kids proud of me and to give them some inspiration.

‘I wanted to show them you don’t just have to sit down on the settee because you have got diabetes and that you can do anything you put your mind to.’

The TV series, hosted by former Radio 1 DJ Reggie Yates, has already seen 22 contestants whittled down to 14.

Spending two days with each special forces instructor, the recruits are forced to tackle punishing runs, and hours upon hours of exercises in the blazing South African sun, with little to no sleep.

The experience is meant to mimic some of the hardest training of the world’s military elite, including the likes of the American Green Berets, Australian SAS and Poland’s world-renowned counter-terrorism team GROM.

Gary, who gave up on dreams to become a Royal Marine at 16 after the birth of his first child, said the experience has been a ‘whirlwind’, describing some of the training as ‘horrific’.

But he said the toughest part of the ordeal was not being in touch with wife Donna, 33, and their children.

‘I thought the toughest part would be the physical side of things. I never thought missing the wife and three kids would be the worst,’ he admitted.

Last week saw Gary and the remaining contestants pushed to their limits by Green Beret veteran Master Sergeant Terry Schappert.

The contestants tackled everything from hours of exercises, which included lifting 100kg logs, press-ups, sprints, ‘gun PT’ to a physically-draining teamwork task in the unforgiving heat of the Atlantis Dunes – where temperatures reached a searing 40C.

‘What you see on the TV is only a tiny bit of what they actually put us through,’ added boxing enthusiast Gary.

Special Forces – Ultimate Hell Week continues on BBC 2 on Sunday at 9pm.