Recently, we had the fortunate opportunity to take a group of veterans to Israel, where they took part in The Veteran Games. A fun and challenging week followed, with veterans of all backgrounds and abilities taking part in a series of games from swimming to CrossFit. It was never about competition and winning however, it was always about teamwork, family and a reason to smile.
We spoke to Rebecca Halliwell-Coutts last week about her experience of the games. This is what she had to say.
Rebecca, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I joined the Army in 2000 initially as AGC(RMP) but later transferred within the Corps to AGC(SPS). I’ve had a varied and enjoyable career serving mostly with the Royal Engineers but also with some Special Duties thrown in and a stint with the Household Cavalry doing ceremonial events in London which was probably the highlight of my career. I have also served operationally in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan and I was unfortunately medically discharged in 2014 for injuries sustained in Service. My recovery journey has been long and only now do I feel that I am on the right path and making progress.
And how did you find your experience at The Veteran Games?
My experience of the Veteran Games was nothing but extremely positive. I always like to do my best and I acknowledged that it was a real privilege to even be attending the Games in the first instance so I wanted to do well. All that pressure dissipated from the moment I arrived at Heathrow and started talking to the other veterans and staff. The real aim of the Games is to discover and reconnect with yourself and your loved ones and to take part and enjoy the experience.
What did being part of the Veteran Games mean to you?
Inclusion, togetherness, resilience and to feel gladiatorial in ones self again. I have deliberately shied away from these kind of events mainly because of the disappointment and failure to make the Invictus Games Team back in 2017. Being part of the Games has given me a platform and a focus from which to successfully move forward with, knowing that the hard work I put into my rehabilitation during lockdown was worth it and identify where I can continually improve. It has given me permission to keep going and I have applied, once again, to trial for Invictus 2023.
What was your proudest moment?
It is impossible to single out one moment but I think for me it had to be the closing ceremony where for that one moment in time, we were all so proud of one another’s achievements big or small and for all the families who came to support. It really is about the bigger picture and I certainly felt connected once again with my veteran brothers and sisters.
Did you learn anything during your time in Israel?
I learnt that Israel is a somewhat mis-understood country and being someone who is interested in culture, people and languages, I was grateful to be able to experience the country first hand. I felt comfortable asking the difficult questions and having them answered by someone who has lived experience of the issues that sit within Israel and surrounding countries. I learnt some basic Hebrew and made an effort every day to utilise some of the vocabulary learnt throughout the trip and I think that was appreciated by the locals.
What was your highlight of the trip?
So many to choose from! I would have to say Jerusalem and exploring the City of David because that was just an incredible experience and one few get to enjoy.
Second to that was actually winning a few medals (much to my surprise!) and validating to myself that I am capable and by way of a small thank you to my company who allowed me the time to attend and who have supported me so generously in my recovery journey.
Finally, what would you say to somebody is who perhaps considering taking part in the Veteran Games?
If I could go back year on year then I would because there is so much to be gained from these Games. Only you will know your reasons why and what you want to achieve from it but I can bet you that whatever those reasons, you will come back a better person for it.It is a real honour, privilege and opportunity…. so grab it with both hands and take that leap of faith, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.