Injured veteran from Chorley to embark on 1,000 kilometre feat in wheelchair

A former soldier from Chorley who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and now relies on a wheelchair will trek 1,000 kilometres alongside his partner Claire to raise money for Help for Heroes.

By James Holt
Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 1:15 pm
Former soldier John and partner Claire are raising vital funds for Help for Heroes
Former soldier John and partner Claire are raising vital funds for Help for Heroes

John Newcombe, an infantry soldier of 34 years, was injured in a blast in Northern Ireland in the 1980s and has since developed multiple sclerosis meaning he can no longer walk and relies on the care of others.

He lives in Chorley and is planning to cover a 1,000 km distance alongside his partner Claire over the coming months, who is also hoping to span a 2,000 km trek across the Namibian Desert next year to raise vital funds.

She had originally planned to complete the challenge alongside a group of injured or sick veterans and their families later this month, but changing travel restrictions have put a stop to the plan.

Veteran John, 58, who once ran from Bosnia to Britain to raise funds for Children in Need, uses a wheelchair and is losing the use of his hands, but is determined to complete the massive 1,000-kilometer journey to raise money for Help for Heroes.

The couple will take part in local walking routes, as well as distances in the Lake District with support from the Help for Heroes Sports Team and have already covered 3,000 km between them since January.

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How John Newcombe and his support dog Casper became an award winning team

His partner Claire Corner, who will be completing the journey with him and who suffers from the auto-immune disease lupus, said he will be using wheelchairs from Help for Heroes and an adapted static bike and hand-bike gifted by a friend from the army.

Mr Newcombe, who lives near Chorley in Lancashire, said: “People take the simplest things for granted, being able to stand, talking to people face-to-face, a proper hug.

“Help for Heroes came along and I can do all those things again.”

The couple set up a Go Fund Me page in a bid to raise as much money for the charity as possible, initially setting a goal at £1,000 and donations have been flooding in.

John's partner Claire added: "Me and John both spent the whole of lockdown shedding and the isolation has certainly made John's MS much more noticeable. We both said we would set ourselves a challenge to celebrate coming out of hibernation and give something back to the chairty.

John served as a soldier before he was injured in a blast

"I will be completing a 2,000 km trek across the Namibian Desert and John and I will both be doing a 1,000km challenge in the lead up to the trek. I will be walking and John will be using wheelchairs provided by Help for Heroes.

"Help for Heroes has been a valuable support, providing emotional and practical support; respite; and opportunities that have allowed us both to remain as active as possible, despite John's disability.

"With an illness such as John's it would have been so easy for him to succumb to the limitations of his increasingly debilitating disease but with his determined mindset, he battles on.

"Some days he cannot even get out of bed because of his disease. Just getting out of the front door to travel a five mile distance is such an achievement.

Former soldier John now relies on a wheelchair and the support of support dog Casper

"John's disease has now progressed as such that he can no longer walk and is dependant on the care of others. However, he refuses to give in to the disease and tries to overcome a daily struggle that most of us would not be able to comprehend, in order to maintain an active life for us both.

"It is this grit and determination that has inspired me to challenge myself and take part in the trek.

"I want to acknowledge the bravery, strength and determination that John demonstrates each day. The challenges that I will face during the trek will only represent a fraction of those experienced by our injured, wounded and sick servicemen and women face every day."

In recent weeks, veterans have shared their personal stories of how reaching out for help has transformed their lives after a survey revealed the extent of the mental health crisis among soldiers.

A Help for Heroes poll showed that 73 per cent of veterans with permanent health conditions struggle with their mental wellbeing on a daily basis, and the same number reported frequently suffering from long-term pain.

Meanwhile, 82 per cent have difficulty sleeping every night, according to the charity’s survey of 2,201 veterans and serving personnel conducted in June 2021.

Some 60 per cent of those living with a long-term health condition also said they believed their physical state worsened during the pandemic, and 56 per cent reported that their mental health had deteriorated.

Donations can be made at the Go Fund Me page.