Vincent Manley met the Pilgrim Bandits in 2012, whilst volunteering at a horse-riding session for amputees. Since then, he has joined us on a number of expeditions and been a committed and loyal supporter of the Charity.
He tells us his story:
“I joined the Royal Marines from school. I was 17 when I joined up and I did Commando Training before I was 18. I spent 16 years in the Marines and took part in seven operational tours.
“I didn’t actually get injured while I was in service. I decided to leave the Marines after a couple of tours of Iraq and after working in Baghdad for a little while. I went into the private security industry.
“In 2006, I was in an armoured Land Cruiser when it was hit by a projectile IED from the right-hand side. I’m a double amputee after surgery – the impact took my right leg below the knee immediately and my left leg was really smashed up. My right arm was also injured and I lost my elbow joint due to shrapnel damage. During surgeries, I also had what’s called a cardiovascular accident, which caused me to experience stroke-like symptoms due to a blood clot on the brain.
“I went through a long recovery. It was a hard time and it felt like my whole life fell apart. It often happens with an injury like that. I was on a lot of medication much longer than I should have been. It was when I came off the medication in 2010 that I really started getting active again. I started sailing, kayaking, rock climbing and walking, often with other amputees.”
Meeting the Pilgrims
“I actually met Pilgrim Bandits when I was doing a horse-riding demonstration for amputees up in Scotland in 2012. They came to that and the following day, the Pilgrims did a boat trip and invited me along. From then on, they’ve kept in touch with me and invited me along on their expeditions.
“I first went kayaking with them in 2015 in Yukon in Canada. I trained hard for it because it looked like it was going to be really tough and bigger than anything I’d done since my injury. I felt excited and I was nervous.
“The Pilgrims gave me a challenge that I had to really get stuck into and train for. That gave me focus. I trained all year, building up to it.
“The expedition was brilliant. It was all the things that a Royal Marine or a soldier loves: there was good camaraderie with the lads, loads of banter, beautiful wilderness and hard work. The Pilgrims have invited me back ever since and when I’ve been available, I’ve always jumped at the chance.”
Always A Little Further
“Everyone’s got empathy, but Pilgrim Bandits isn’t about feeling sorry for yourself. You’ve got to look after yourself, but you’ve also got to just get on with it. That’s the mindset you need as an amputee or someone with an injury and that’s what Pilgrims try and promote.
“If you just want to get stuck into it again, Pilgrim Bandits is for you. To pass out in the military, you’ve got to have the resilience and inner strength to get through the training and whatever obstacles come your way. When you get injured, that strength can get knocked out of you – that’s what I found.
“I lost all my confidence and relationships fell away. I was in a very low place psychologically. When Pilgrim Bandits asked if I wanted to do an expedition, my ears pricked up. That’s exactly what I needed. I find that when I’ve just finished an expedition, my confidence in myself is way up. I feel great knowing what I’ve achieved and that I’ve worked hard for it.”