Ashley's Story

After Ashley experienced a life-changing traffic accident, he found comfort and recovery with Cardiff City FC Community Foundation’s Armed Forces Veterans Hub.

At age 19 Ashely joined the 144 Parachute Squadron, 16 Close Support Medical Regiment. During his 16 years of service, he completed a total of 116 military parachute jumps and traveled the world taking part in active duty and military training exercises from Italy and Germany to Canada and OP Arigola in Kosovo.

The Airbourne Forces was his life, and he made many friends along the way.

“If you’re Airbourne Forces, your Airbourne through and through! It’s like a stick of rock, break it and you’ll see it all the way through – we’re a family”

In 2005, whilst returning from a scheduled Military Parachute jump from Wattisham Airfield, Ashley was involved in a road traffic incident that would change the course of his life.

“I was on my bike and a vehicle had flashed its headlights to a van driver indicating them to move across their lane and mine; however, the van driver didn’t see me, and I was hit, thrown from my bike, and ended up under the rear axle of the van.” Witnesses on site had assumed Ashley had died. “The Father from the nearby St Ignatius Catholic Church had even come out to read me my last rights!”

Within moments he was treated at the scene and airlifted by HEMS Helicopter to the Royal London Hospital, in total Ashley suffered from multiple brain injuries, punctured lungs, and had a total of 44 fractures.

The road to recovery has been a long one but Ashley has been supported by family and friends each step of the way. “One of my friends said to me, through this process you’ll lose friends you never thought you’d lose, and you’ll make friends you never thought you’d meet, and that’s exactly what’s happened”.

Ashley has been attending the Veterans Hub since it began in 2018 and has formed an integral part of his recovery journey.

Cardiff City FC Community Foundation’s Armed Forces Veterans Hub has been a place where many of those new friendships have been forged. Ashley has been attending the Veterans Hub since it began in 2018 and says that it has formed an integral part of his recovery journey.

“I attend as many weekly sessions as I can, but there is never any pressure if I can’t, that’s what I like and that’s why it's different to other groups, I’ve even brought a few of my military mates along when they’ve been visiting me, it’s a really friendly group”.

Like many of the other veterans involved in the group, Ashley loves the structure and knows that each week he’ll see some familiar faces who can offer support when he needs it. The camaraderie and common shared experiences of military life, play a huge part in helping to form connections and ultimately, reduce social isolation amongst the veterans.

Since the accident, Ashley had attended several other Veterans groups, but they were either too specific or too formal.

“You needed to attend every single session or, in some cases it was only open to certain members of the Armed Forces. What I liked about this group was that it was at Cardiff City Football Club, the club I’d supported since I was a kid, and it was open to all veterans, no matter your age, how long or where you served.”

Wales has one of the largest proportions of veterans in the UK with 7% of all veterans currently living here. Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan has a veteran's population of around 27,320 and 8% suffer from mental health issues including depression and anxiety.

The Armed Forces Veterans Hub uses the power of football and sense of belonging with Cardiff City FC to connect and support veterans around Cardiff and South East Wales to reduce loneliness and improve physical and mental wellbeing.

18 years after the incident, Ashley is back traveling the world with his wife in their VW Campervan, meeting up with old friends and forming new friendships at Cardiff City FC Community Foundation.

Find out more about our Armed Forces Veterans Hub here.

Cardiff City FC Community Foundation's Armed Forces Veterans Hub is supported by the Veterans Foundation.

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