“I was 22 when I joined the Army. Like any job, there are highs and lows. You’re adapting to new environments and it’s hard being away from family and friends.
But there are times when you’re with your brothers in arms and there’s no other place you would rather be.
When the pain in my feet first started it felt like I was walking on hot sand, only a thousand times worse. It quickly reached the stage where I couldn’t wear boots - I’d developed plantar fasciitis and had torn tendons and nerve damage.
I had surgery and that was the end of my going out on tour. I was in a bad place. I was on sick leave for two years and turned to painkillers and alcohol. I put on weight and became depressed.
But there was more to come. The pain worsened and I ended up making the decision to have both legs amputated below the knee.
In a way accepting my military career was over was a relief, and having the amputations actually gave me a new lease of life. Losing both lower legs rendered me disabled, but with the use of prosthetics I could finally walk again, pain free. There were daily tasks that took getting used to – rolling over in bed without your lower legs was one of them! But with Help for Heroes’ support, I found the motivation to keep pushing forward and adapt.
Knowing I used to love being active before I was injured, they suggested I try out wheelchair rugby. They teamed up with Blesma, a partner charity that supports veterans who have lost limbs, and gave me a specially adapted wheelchair. Now I’m a member of the Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby team which is great not just for my physical health but my mental health too.
Thanks to the support I’ve had, my outlook on life today is more positive than ever and I have a real can-do attitude. Recently I adapted a mountain bike, so that my prosthetic feet stick to the pedals with magnets. Riding a bike might seem like a simple thing to most people, but for me it meant achieving one of my biggest wishes.
The frame of mind I am in now is such a long way away from the destructive one I was once in. Help for Heroes, and all its amazing supporters, have helped make all of this possible for me.”
How you can help
While it takes strength to serve in the Armed Forces, it takes a different kind of strength to live life beyond injury.
It could be the strength to learn to walk again, or to ask for help after 15 years of suffering in silence.
Together, we can help wounded veterans, like Bruce, overcome their daily battles and thrive.
Give strength to those who gave for us.