Lance Corporal Tyler Christopher was injured in Afghanistan in August 2009 after standing on an IED bomb, which resulted in the loss of both his legs above the knee. He also nearly lost his arm and badly damaged the inside of his stomach. He’s a keen supporter of Pilgrim Bandits having been on many of our confidence-building expeditions over the years. He now helps other injured service men and women and those in the emergency services to also push themselves further.
Tyler tells his story.
“I Joined the Royal Green Jackets in 2001 and, over an eight- year career, I spent time in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. Being in the Forces was something I’d always wanted to do. I come from a military background, a lot of my family have been in the Marines and Air Forces. And, there are many proud moments and achievements that stand out for me when I think back on my time serving. In 2004 I was proud to receive Top Rifleman in the company and in 2008 I was presented the Baker Rifle for Top Shot in the Battalion.”
It was his time spent abroad that brings back difficult memories for Tyler.
He said: ‘We lost quite a few lads when we went out to Iraq as a result of shootings and IEDs, then in Afghanistan we lost another lad in our Company. It was on 13th August 2009 that I was patrolling in Afghanistan and got injured myself. I was thirteenth in line, so there were plenty of people in front of me – I thought I’d be safe. We went out and I stood on it [an IED bomb], but I didn’t know what I’d stood on to begin with.
“The first thing that went through my head was that we’d been shot by artillery and the impact was right where we were. I slowly started to try and move and shouted to the man to the right to check he was ok, I did the same to the man in front. At the same time, I was trying to stand up and nothing was happening. My arm wasn’t working either. That’s when I realised that I wasn’t alright.
“The lads that came to do first-aid couldn’t get to me at first, they couldn’t get closer because another IED had been exposed, but eventually we got back to camp where a helicopter picked us up. I ended up losing both legs above the knee and damaging my right arm, it was broken in two places. I also had some internal organ injuries. At the time I couldn’t feel anything – I was in total shock.”
Despite his injuries, Tyler has a positive outlook on life, he decided to go to college to study Countryside Management – his plan was to acquire and look after a plot of land. Mentally he had always been prepared for the potential of such an injury. But, physically, he needed to gain the confidence to push himself further in his day-to-day living.
Some years later, he learned of the work that Pilgrim Bandits do supporting those that have been injured or have PTSD as a result of their experiences.
“Another injured lad told me about a Pilgrim Bandits trip to Canada he was going on [a 500-mile kayaking trip down the Yukon River] and invited me to come along. He told me all about a previous kayaking expedition he had been on in France. I hadn’t done anything like it since my injury, so I thought I’d try and get on it too.
“The trip gave me so much confidence – I love camping, just being in the middle of nowhere and I didn’t think I could do that anymore, walking round on prosthetic legs. But the more [Pilgrim Bandits] trips I’ve gone on the more I’ve realised I can do. If I haven’t got my legs on, I can still move around on the floor, although that’s not always great! I now go camping a lot. I took away a lot of confidence from the Canada trip and from that point onwards, I was hooked.”
Tyler recently joined the Pilgrim Bandits on a Winter Survival Course in Sweden, trekking across inhospitable terrain, adapting to freezing temperatures and learning new skills. The trip certainly brought its challenges, but overall, Tyler commented that the expedition was an unforgettable, confidence-building experience for all involved.
“It was different to all other trips I’ve been on, normally we are travelling from A to B, kayaking, cycling or trekking. This one was all about survival and we had some good fun – making a fire from scratch, sleeping in a snow hole where there was no electricity and no phone signal. We had to stay up to watch the fire – well, I did anyway! A highlight for me was plunging deep down into the ice”.
Tyler now looks to help others on Pilgrim Bandits programmes.
“I’ve also been on the Curtis Palmer Programme with the Police, supporting those with PTSD and physical injuries. As I’ve done a kayaking coaching course, I can get involved and help others to push themselves out of their comfort zones. They all loved it and I’m looking forward to joining again on the next one in March.”
When asked what advice he would give to someone considering a Pilgrim Bandits expedition, Tyler concluded, “Sweden was a great conversation point for me, talking to friends that had seen videos and photos of the trip online and wanted to know more about what we were doing. They are hopefully going to sign-up to future trips too and they really should.
“I always say, if you think you can’t do something, take a look at [Pilgrim Bandits Patron] Ben Parkinson – I look at myself and think I’ve lost my legs, Ben has lost his, but he’s still cracking on with everything. If he can do it, then so can I.”
If you would like to learn more about Pilgrim Bandits’ upcoming expeditions and how you can get involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org