06 Jun The Veteran Games and Conference
The highly anticipated Veteran Games and Conference took place at the Beit Halochem centres in Israel between 26-30 May. The ground-breaking initiative, which has been over a year in the making, brought together 100 wounded British and Israeli veterans to celebrate the vital role sports and family play in rehabilitation.
Partners and children of the UK veterans joined the five-day sporting event which is the brainchild of Beit Halochem UK and the embassy of Israel.
Alongside the competition, the initiative also included the first conference of its kind on PTSD, mental health and recovery featuring leading professionals from both countries. The participants discussed how their respective countries provide specialist care for those injured in combat.
A number of the participants have won awards at the Prince Harry founded Invictus Games.
Chelsea Foundation backed the event and provided football coaching for families attending and specialist workshops for Israeli sports teachers.
The Veteran Games and Conference was funded by philanthropic donations and supported by leading rehabilitation and forces organisations including The Royal Marines Charity, RAF Benevolent Fund, Rock to Recovery, Veteran Scotland, Combat Stress, The Not Forgotten Association and Association of Jewish ex-Service Men and Women (AJEX).
The programme was funded by donations from The Patron Charitable Initiatives, The Pears Foundation, Rachel Charitable Trust, The Wolfson Family Charitable Trust, The Exilarch’s Foundation, The Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation and The Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust.
The conference on mental health, PTSD and recovery was chaired by Sir Simon Wessely, Professor of psychological medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, and consultant advisor in psychiatry to the British Army. Chairing from Israel was Professor Zahava Solomon.
World-renowned psychiatrist Sir Simon Wessely, chair of the conference, said:
“Connecting colleagues, friends and strangers can often have the most unexpected but perhaps the most interesting and rewarding outcomes.”
Veteran Games participant Matt Tomlinson, former Regimental Sergeant-Major of HM Royal Marines, is one of the most decorated commandos in recent times, having received numerous awards for bravery including the Military Cross. He added: “Words cannot explain the huge benefit this trip has attributed to our personal roads to recovery. It has been so humbling, inspirational and at times emotional to see our immediate interactions, support and understanding when we initially met the Israeli veterans. We share common ground; we empathise with each other. We are strangers that met, yet we already know each other.”
Bruce Buck, Chelsea FC Chairman: “It is a great privilege for us to support this initiative. At Chelsea FC we have supported veterans in our local communities for many years and have seen the healing power sports can have to overcome challenges and unite people. Our coaches will be meeting and working with veterans and their families throughout the week-long event, I trust that we will learn a lot from their ways of overcoming the many challenges they are facing every day.”
Spencer Gelding, Chief Executive of Beit Halochem UK, said: “We’re extremely proud to be a founding partner of the inaugural Veteran Games & Conference. The contribution of the armed services is immeasurable, and it is our ambition to help pave the way for best practice with regards to physical and mental rehabilitation of wounded veterans.