2019 Veteran Games and Conference

The Veteran Games 2019

Uniting extraordinary people

 

The 2019 Veteran Games, hosted by Beit Halochem, provided the ideal competitive experience for British and Israeli veterans to demonstrate their extraordinary skills together. Aside from this, the Games served to introduce British veterans and their families to the warmth of the Israeli people. From football coaching and beautiful beaches to more solemn moments of reflection at the Western Wall and the Ramleh War Graves, our British guests received a glimpse of the true Israel – a place of joy, friendship and memory.

Highlights

 

The 2019 Veteran Games brought together over one hundred wounded armed forces veterans from Israel and the UK, to celebrate the roles of sport and family in physical and emotional rehabilitation.

 

The five-day sporting competition and conference took place at the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv based Beit Halochem facilities – unique rehabilitation, sports and recreation centres for disabled veterans and their families in Israel.

 

Joined by their families, British veterans travelled to Israel and spent the duration of the five-day visit competing in a variety of sports, while learning how their respective countries provide care for those injured in combat. They also travelled to the Dead Sea, visited the British war memorial at Ramleh cemetery and toured Jerusalem. This gave them the opportunity to spend time with their families whilst providing them with a unique insight into Israel’s rich culture and history. The veterans’ families were also treated to professional football training from Chelsea F.C.

 

The Games hosted the inaugural conference on veteran PTSD, mental health and recovery. Led by Professor Zahava Solomon from Israel and British psychiatrist, Sir Simon Wessely, it is hoped that it will provide a platform for change in policy in relation to veteran welfare throughout the world.

 

This life-changing journey to Israel was a rehabilitative and memorable experience for both the veterans and their families. While this trip focused on extraordinary competition, it will be remembered for providing the veterans with the opportunity to learn from each other, have quality time with their families, make new friends and ultimately to help them through the course of their recovery.

Message from Andrew Wolfson

CHAIRMAN OF BEIT HALOCHEM, UK

I had a dream, a dream that would connect the brave servicemen and women of the UK with their counterparts in Israel, a dream that would bring families together and a dream that would inspire others.

This dream became a reality in the beautiful surroundings of Beit Halochem in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I was very proud, as the chairman of Beit Halochem UK, to open the Games at our centre in Tel Aviv because they reflected the core values of the Beit Halochem organisation.

 

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we started planning the event. But I also knew that what Israel provides for its military community in terms of rehabilitation is second to none and that British military personnel and their families would undoubtedly benefit if only they could see it up close. Not just by experiencing the state-of-the art facilities but, through competitive sport with Israeli veterans, channelling the positive spirit of empowerment that the Beit Halochem centres are renowned for.

 

The facilities at Beit Halochem were the backdrop to an astonishing four days of personal transformation among a group of British military personnel. In many cases, they have endured years of turmoil, feelings of abandonment and catastrophic injuries that have robbed them of the kind of life all of us take for granted. And yet over a few days we saw people with debilitating psychological and physical disorders achieve things they didn’t think were possible.

 

“FEW THINGS ARE MORE INSPIRING IN LIFE THAN TO WATCH SOMEONE IN PRIVATE PAIN VISIBLY CHANGE IN FRONT OF YOUR EYES”.

 

To see them smile again, embrace their loved ones and beam with pride. That’s what we saw every day at the inaugural Veterans Games.

 

We wanted to create an event designed to rebuild the fractured bonds within families. So, we deliberately planned the week during the school half-term, so the veterans could bring their wives, husbands, children and parents. To provide a sense of belonging, to show them that something as simple as sporting endeavour can bring back feelings of personal pride and a sense of achievement that can often be lost after service ends and a life on civvy street begins.

 

Israel knows this better than anyone. There is so much here that Britain’s health leaders and decision-makers can learn from, particularly in how PTSD and other psychological traumas can be healed through physical therapy. It’s why, concurrently, we brought together some of the world’s leading academics in the fields of medicine and psychology to share research, build relationships and explore new ways of helping people.

 

All of this would not have been possible without so many different people including Andy Garland (Ex-Royal Marine and Project Coordinator), Spencer Gelding (CEO, Beit Halochem UK) and Michael Freeman (Counsellor for Civil Society Affairs, Israeli Embassy London). We were also incredibly grateful to Sir Simon Wessely, Professor Zahava Solomon and Dr Talya Greene for putting together the highest-level UK/Israel conference on the subject of PTSD and mental health in the armed forces that has ever been held.

 

And of course, to the sponsors; Chelsea Foundation, Pears Foundation, Rachel Charitable Trust, Wolfson Family Trust, Exilarch Foundation, Patron Charitable Initiatives, Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation, Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust, the ZDVO and several others as well. Your generosity and commitment to making this world a better place continues to inspire me.

 

My final thanks go to the veterans and their families. They put their trust in a new programme, they came to a country they had never been to, they collaborated with an organisation they had never heard of. I am delighted to say that we all made new, life-long, friendships.

“My dear friends, looking around this room, I see true heroes who answered their country’s call and went to war to preserve our values and protect us all. I salute you!”

Reuven Rivlin

President of Israel

Message from

Chelsea FC Foundation

Chelsea Football Club is pleased to have taken part in this important project. Chelsea’s coaches worked with veterans from both countries and their families throughout the event and led practical workshops for Israeli sport teachers from across the country.

Chelsea Football Club is pleased to have taken part in this important project. Chelsea’s coaches worked with veterans from both countries and their families throughout the event and led practical workshops for Israeli sport teachers from across the country.

 

We had the privilege of meeting extraordinary veterans from both the UK and Israel at this event. They candidly shared with us the challenges they face every day. I am proud that we have been able to support these families using the power of football.

 

As a club, we have a proud record of supporting veterans in our local communities. Last year we hosted the Royal British Legion Challenge Cup at Stamford Bridge, raising funds for the Legion’s Battle Back Centre.

 

We are also continuing to initiate and support local and international programmes aimed at using the healing power of sports to help overcome challenges and unite people from different backgrounds and nationalities.

 

We look forward to strengthening our bonds with those who took part in the week-long veterans’ event in Israel. It was moving and inspirational, and enabled so many people to share their exceptional stories. I am sure that the impact of hearing those accounts will stay with all of those involved forever.

 

Bruce Buck

CHAIRMAN OF CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB

HE Mark Regev

AMBASSADOR OF ISRAEL TO THE UNITED KINGDOM

Matt Tomlinson

British Veteran

NAME: MATTHEW TOMLINSON CGC MC

AGE: 52

COUNTRY: UK

OCCUPATION: CURRENTLY PARAMEDIC ASSISTANT

REGIMENT: FORMER ROYAL MARINE COMMANDO

What’s your story?

I have had a fantastic career in the Royal Marines, during which I was deployed on several operational taskings in Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Congo-Brazzaville, Iraq and two tours of Afghanistan. Iraq and Afghanistan proved the most demanding and my leadership role required decision making whilst also caring for many marines. Following these tours, I was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for Iraq and the Military Cross for Afghanistan, successes which I attribute to my comrades. It’s important to remember that with gallantry awards lives are taken, and witnessing the suffering of people on both sides mentally takes its toll.

 

What and who has helped you on your road to recovery?

Sufferers of PTSD live with this condition every day. Since retiring, my main coping strategy is running. By maintaining my fitness, I am in a better position to fight off depression. Equally, working with those in need and saving lives helps to combat my guilt. There are many PTSD and mental health healing programmes available in the UK. However, attending meetings alongside other commitments is difficult. I believe the Veteran Games helped PTSD sufferers to focus on something uplifting and unifying. It was an experience which we could share with others facing similar challenges. This five-day event has provided us with months of positivity ahead and I feel so proud to have been a part of it.

 

Reflections on the #VeteranGames2019 and the facilities at Beit Halochem? 

The Games provided me with the opportunity to travel to Israel and to compete alongside like-minded people. We arrived as strangers, yet immediately we understood each other. Veterans share similar experiences and carry the same burdens of conflict, loss and sorrow. The Games united us as a team in which we shared pain and sweat and supported one another.

 

The main thing you’ll remember from your experience in Israel?

Israel’s beauty helped me to forget the troubled thoughts and take in everything this trip had to offer. Beit Halochem’s rehabilitation centre was incredibly impressive and it was humbling to see just how much support is afforded by the country towards its veterans. The centre shows this appreciation for them and cares for them, catering for the individual’s needs. I hope the UK can learn from this and replicate such facilities to meet the support requirements of our veterans. I hope that we further recognise the sacrifices veterans make whilst serving their country, and that we reciprocate this commitment.

Harvey & Daniel Brian Tomlinson

British Veteran’s family

NAME: HARVEY & DANIEL BRIAN TOMLINSON

AGE: 15 AND 14

COUNTRY: UK

OCCUPATION: STUDENTS

RELATION TO VETERAN: SONS

NAME OF VETERAN: MATTHEW TOMLINSON CGC MC

What’s your story?

Unlike our Dad, our Mum has often spoken about his difficulties and the upset he has faced. We have learned about the suffering he copes with every day and, as a service family, we look after each other. We tell him that we love him, and we allow him the space he sometimes needs. Our Dad tirelessly tries to manage his mental health outside of the family home so that it doesn’t affect our family dynamic. We are proud of our dad and see him as a role model for all that he has done.

 

What and who has helped you and them on their road to recovery?

As a family, we have had little help. Dad has attended counselling; however, it has proved difficult for him to gain access to help whilst still working full-time. Dad is a volunteer trustee for the Not Forgotten Association which helps him feel he is still supporting the Royal Marines and Service personnel. As a family together, the only help so far has been the Veteran Games. This was a unique chance to be with Dad and some of his Marines. It has made us realise the amazing things people can achieve despite their injuries and illnesses.

 

Reflections on the #VeteranGames2019 and the facilities at Beit Halochem?

We were blown away by the facilities at Beit Halochem. It was impressive to see such facilities available for the service personnel, and to learn that there are more like this. We are not aware of such places in the UK. We were also able to watch Dad and the other contestants compete in Cross Fit. We were so impressed at how the veterans overcame their injuries. Their achievements were truly inspirational and we have already told our mates about the trip.

 

The main thing you’ll remember from your experience in Israel?

Everywhere we looked we saw people working out, laughing, smiling – everyone seemed happy and healthy. We saw very little rubbish, the sites we saw always looked clean and well kept. The food took a little getting used to. We tried a lot, but we are not huge fans of vegetables! Our memories of this beautiful country are filled with much needed time with Dad and with inspiring injured service personnel from the UK and Israel.

 

“Thank you, Beit Halochem, to everyone in the organisation and to the country and people of Israel”.

Hanoch Budin

Israeli Veteran

NAME: HANOCH BUDIN

AGE: 57

COUNTRY: ISRAEL

What’s your story?

I was injured on 24th June 1982 in Lebanon. My right arm was amputated on the spot whilst my face and right side were hit by many pieces of shrapnel. My life changed completely, and I found myself facing a new situation that was full of pain and challenges that I have carried with me every day since. I felt the world come down on me and it took me two years to really find my path in life. I chose to become a swimmer and put most of my energy into that. I built myself a career as a Paralympic swimmer, during which I represented Israel for 20 years. Over this time, I won eight Paralympic medals, including two world record breaking gold medals. I also won 20 medals across World and European championships. I started my own family and created a successful business. My life has taught me how to overcome difficulties and my book, Single Handed, explains this to whoever would like to know.

 

What and who has helped you on your road to recovery?

The first step towards recovery came when I was visited by other wounded veterans who invited me to Beit Halochem. I found myself in a new and happy group which offers support for one another. Sometimes no words need to be said. Just having comrades with mutual understanding and respect can pave the way for a strong level of brotherhood that will last forever.

 

Reflections on the #VeteranGames2019 and the facilities at Beit Halochem?

To me the Games offered an opportunity to meet new people that I share common ground with. As someone who has represented Israel for so many years, I was happy that I could be a part of these games. Sport is one of the most successful ways to connect with people and I have made great friendships, which I am sure will last for many years. It gave me great pride that the Games were held in the place which has been my second home for 37 years. I am happy that my fellow veterans from the UK were made aware of the great efforts that our Jewish community are putting in to ensure the best support for veterans.

 

The main thing you’ll remember from the experience?

First and foremost, I will remember the friendships. I will always remember how, day-by-day, fellow veterans of the UK found themselves to be more relaxed and happier. The last day was a highlight, a day full of hugs, sharing and openness. I also enjoyed how the competition was serious and yet friendly.

Thoughts from

Sir Simon Wessely & Professor Zahava Solomon

Few modern conflicts have not led to innovation in the care of the physically wounded, resulting in a long trend of better outcomes for those physically injured in battle, both in terms of survival and recovery of function. However, it is a more complex picture for psychological injuries. It is true that war has also stimulated greater recognition and, indeed, the management of psychiatric injury.

The modern use of crisis intervention, home treatment teams, early intervention services and so on owe to the pressures that were forced upon several of the combatant nations in the First World War, as they faced a growing manpower crisis in 1916. Thus, a new system, based on the principles of proximity, immediacy and expectancy – to be grouped together as ‘forward psychiatry’ was born.

 

This remains the doctrine behind the way that most modern militaries, including both the British Armed Forces and the IDF, treat acute psychiatric casualties to this day. It is less well known that this is also the origin of the standard principles underlying many systems of community care, right up to the apparently modern ‘recovery movement.’

 

If conflict has had an unintended, yet still useful, effect of stimulating new thinking in both physical and psychological injury, the parallels are not exact. Yes, there is a direct link between experiences on the battlefield and outcomes. There are also many more complex factors at play as well. We know that factors before military service play a role. And we also know the social, cultural and indeed political responses long after the battle have ended cannot be neglected.

 

One thing we have learnt is that it is important to look not just within our own nation and its armed forces, but also to look beyond. Social, political and cultural influences on the outcomes of conflict-related psychiatric disorders will be overlooked if we only look within a single cultural system, a single medical system or a homogenous cultural background. It is not just a question of learning from each other, it is also about learning about ourselves by observing others.

 

It is in that spirit that we brought together a diverse group of experts and commentators to discuss some of these issues at Beit Halochem in Israel. We chose to look at three different issues, which are of relevance to our countries, but sufficiently diverse enough to also provide learning opportunities for all our participants.

 

We look to the past and how civilian military relationships have developed, with an emphasis on veterans. We look to the present and how sport, exercise and competition can aid integration and rehabilitation, thinking not just of physical rehabilitation where the case is very compelling and is now being enthusiastically endorsed in many countries, but also what messages does this have for psychiatric rehabilitation. And we look to the future and what is happening in both Israel and the United Kingdom in terms of service delivery and treatment innovation, particularly in the field of PTSD.

 

Our experience tells us that this kind of endeavour sometimes achieves some of its objectives, like those we have outlined above. But our experience also tells us that sometimes the most powerful outcomes are the unexpected. Bringing together colleagues, friends and strangers can often have the most unanticipated and perhaps the most interesting and rewarding outcomes.

 

“It is in that spirit that we welcomed everyone to Beit Halochem, and hope that as Rick says to Captain Renault at the end of Casablanca, ‘this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

 

What extraordinary people say on Social Media

“Defying gravity, Defying disability, we can achieve anything.”

#veterangames2019

“We miss you already It was an amazing week for us! Thank you for being here! We hope to see you again.”

“Back off to the gym we go! Taking our motivational Veteran Games kit.”

“What a week. What a bloomin’ fantastic week. Superbly organised events that my calf muscles will look back on with joy once the bruising goes down. Wonderful food. I must have eaten my body weight in hummus.”

Messages of thanks

Danny White

Just want to say a massive thank you for last week. Just like my bag that I took there that was half empty, my heart and soul was too and over winter I had lost my way. Both have come back full. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the amazing experience and memories.

 

I hope on your side it was a huge success that can only grow. Truly humbled with some of the experiences and places we visited. Keep up the awesome work.

 

The Neve family

Hi, just wanted to thank you for looking after us all so well. What a truly amazing week we’ve had. It’s hard to explain to others just how much this week has changed our lives and how much we benefited from these games. We’ve made friends for life and our kids got to experience a different culture and way of living. We fell in love with Israel and the Israeli people. Thank you for giving us this opportunity. We loved every second!!

 

Mitchell Clement

Well done Beit Halochem. Doing what you do enriches the lives of so many. Be proud, scream it from the rooftops, you, the athletes, sponsors and everyone involved deserves every ounce of credit. May this acorn that you have planted grow into a huge tree.

 

Jonathan Ball – CEO of The Royal Marines Charity

I was blown away by the quality of care, staff and facilities of Beit Halochem. Thank you so much for all you did for our veterans over these life changing days in so many ways – continued progress in recovery, new British friends, empathy and support of Israeli veterans, understanding of Israel and the courage and commitment of your people.

 

Caroline Beazley

As some of you know, 25 years ago, I was shot four times by the IRA, whilst serving with the Royal Military Police in Belfast. One round went through my back, one through my face, one through my right thumb and the last through my helmet, narrowly missing my head.

 

This last week I have had the honour and privilege to have be chosen by The Not Forgotten Association to travel to Israel, with 56 other veterans and their families to take part in the first ever Veteran Games and Conference in Tel Aviv.

 

We competed in swimming, shooting, cross fit and water polo in the mornings, and in afternoons and evenings treated to a truly exceptional Israeli experience. Cultural trips, a visit to the Dead Sea, a meal in the desert overlooking Jordan, a walk around Jerusalem and to top it off a visit to the President of Israel’s residence. We were treated like Kings and Queens with everything laid on for us.

 

My fears of going into a range, firing a weapon, were soon put to one side, with the support and understanding from both UK veterans and Israeli close by. New friendships were made, old ones reinforced, what an amazing experience we have all shared.

 

Thank you to the sponsors, all the charitable organisations, The Israeli experience team, The Not Forgotten, The Royal Marines Charity, Beit Halochem Centres and staff, and to all the veterans and their families for making this a trip of a lifetime and one I will cherish forever.

 

Mental health for veterans in the UK is severely lacking, but I hope the conference that ran alongside this event was useful and helps improve services for veterans,which is so desperately needed. Trips like this though, are good for the soul and make you feel proud to have served.

 

Thank you also to my family for all the support in enabling me to be able to go on this trip. Jean Burgess, James Beazley, Chris Ralston, Rosie Hilliard.

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