0370 1500 100

From fighting for his country, to an uncertain future, to a brand new lease of life, it’s always great to catch up with our client Andy Barlow.

Andy Barlow joined the British Army in 2003 and served with the 1st and 2nd Battalions and the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. Three years later, aged just 19, Andy and his unit became trapped in a minefield in the Kajaki Dam area of Helmand Province. He was badly injured and ended up losing his left foot but was still able to help save his colleagues; incredible bravery that led to the George Medal for Gallantry.

The amazing account of what happened to Andy and the rest of his unit has been immortalised in the feature film, Kajaki: The True Story, but for our client this was the starting point of the rest of his life. When Andy was in a hospital bed, looking at a sheet covering his leg, he thought to himself “I am faced with a choice, I either pull the sheet back and deal with reality or hide from it”. Andy has never hidden from anything in his life.

Adapting to change

Andy didn’t find the transition into civilian life easy and is honest about the difficulties he faced, “the forces spend a lot to train you up, but they do not spend the same amount to transition you out”. Andy left the Military of Defence with no real qualifications and no sense of his own worth.

All soldiers come out of the military with an incredible skillset; from project management guiding a group of men on a patrol to negotiation and communication skills utilised in the tensest of situations. The problem Andy found was that when someone leaves the army no one tells ex-personnel where to go next to make the most of these skills.

Andy looks back with pride at how far he has come but knows not everyone can say the same, which is why his latest project is a series of talks taking a look at mental health and the difficulties soldiers have after they can no longer serve. Shell shock, battle fatigue and combat stress have always highlighted that mental scars cause as much pain as the physical ones but Andy feels that “it’s only in the last decade attitudes have changed and people are prepared to talk”.

A sporting chance

“After my accident sport gave me an opportunity to challenge myself and to succeed, it gave me freedom and it allowed me to be active again”. Andy doesn’t hold back when he talks about the impact disability sport has had on his rehabilitation and is proud of his accomplishments.

Andy has competed in sailing for the British Army Offshore Race Team but over the past few years it’s his passion for skiing that has reached new heights. “I was part of the first disabled sports programme set up by the British Military, I skied for two weeks and attended for the following four years”.

In 2015 Andy started racing and is aiming to represent his country at the winter Paralympics in 2022. He is a keen supporter of our Don’t Quit, Do It campaign and would encourage anyone to give sport a try after a serious injury as it helps you “achieve something which you never imagined you could”. Andy sums up his love for skiing perfectly, calling it “one of the few sports where disability is left at the bottom of the chair and success is made on the hill”.

A new role to relish

Recently Andy became the new Outreach Officer for the South for BLESMA, the military charity for limbless veterans and is relishing having the chance to support people who have gone through the same trauma as he did. “I want to create groups where veterans can talk to each other and vent with people who have the same experiences”, says Andy, who knows plenty about transitioning back to a life you never plan for.

Andy is an inspiration to everyone he meets and will continue to excel in whatever he does, whether that is hosting a support group or skiing from the summit.

Published: April 2019

Sign up to receive Focus on Military

Spring 2019

Key Contact

Geraldine McCool

Sign up to Focus on Military.