Meet Portsmouth region's Invictus Games hopefuls - and find out why they're taking part

VETERANS training to represent their country on the world stage have opened up about how sports can help with their battle against PTSD.

Wednesday, 7th August 2019, 7:16 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th August 2019, 9:21 am
Left to right, ex-Army John Shepard (39), Squadron Leader Sherry McBain (40) of The Princess Mary's RAF Nursing Service based at The Queen Alexandra Hospital and ex-Navy Jay Saunders (50) Picture: Malcolm Wells (190807-6131)

John Shepard, Sherry McBain and Jay Saunders are part of a team in the Solent region training for selection in the 2020 Invictus Games.

All three of them have some form of PTSD, but are on the journey to recovery together, using sports as a focused outlet.

RAF Squadron Leader McBain, 40 from Sarisbury Green, has spent most of her career as a medic.

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Hoping to do seated volleyball, archery, cycling and wheelchair basketball, she says the biggest hurdle so far has been seeing people she rescued while on operations.

She said: ‘I was worried about seeing people I had lifted because the last mental image I have of them is of them lying in front of me, dying.

‘But to see them competing around me has updated my mental image of them – I’m able to view them completely differently now.

‘I’ve got my drive back to be the best version of myself that I can.’

Jay Saunders, who served as a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy, developed PTSD after serving in Sierra Leone, as the navy fought against the Ebola virus.

Last year he found himself at rock bottom, with nothing left but his car, a suitcase of clothes and his boat.

After competing in the Warrior Games, he says archery literally saved his life.

‘I felt guilt for the people I couldn’t save,’ he said. ‘But focusing myself through archery and helping others to learn the sport has made me feel worthwhile again.

‘I’m stepping back into the world and this is me taking the first few steps to recovery.’

For 39-year-old Army veteran John Shepard, the 2020 games would be the second time he’s represented Team GB, having competed last year in Sydney.

The ex-forces man, also from Gosport, said: ‘I found the crowds and noise tough to deal with, but I got through it.

‘We all know we’re broken in our own ways, but this is a journey we can all go on together.’

Three more selection camps are being held before the final squad is announced in October.