A decorated soldier who suffered devastating injuries in Iraq visited Clydebank yesterday (Wednesday, August 8) as part of an incredible UK-wide trek for charity.
Major Phil Packer, an officer in the Royal Military Police (RMP), sustained massive injuries while serving in Basra in February 2008. After battling to overcome his own wounds, he set up a charity to help young people struggling with their own adversity.
The British Inspiration Trust – known as BRIT – was created to help transform the lives of young people coping with their darkest times, which can lead to self-harm, depression and suicide. It supports 16 to 25 year olds who experience physical or mental disability, deprivation, injury and young carers.
Major Packer’s visit to Clydebank was part of a fundraising walk he is undertaking across the United Kingdom. In recognition of the London Olympics, the soldier is attempting to complete a 2,012 mile trek visiting every county in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Speaking ahead of his journey, Major Packer explained: “Inspiration is vital if young people are to overcome adversity in their lives. Within 24 months I want to build a £15 million centre to help young people experiencing some of life’s darkest times.
“There are 600,000 young people in this country who face their own journey of adversity; 700,000 disabled people – 29 per cent of whom live in families on the poverty line. We have to show more compassion and give them more support.”
The journey across Britain would be a daunting challenge for anyone, but is all the more remarkable given Major Packer’s upper legs and thighs remain completely paralysed. Even the most minuscule leg movement requires extreme concentration, as messages from his brain struggle to find their way through the severely damaged nerves in his lower spine.
Some simple statistics make the scale of his efforts clear. The visit to Clydebank came on the 199th day of his trek. He still has 734 miles to go before he reaches his 2,012 mile target distance.
Major Packer’s catastrophic injuries were the result of a rocket attack by enemy insurgents, which sent the military policeman flying through the air and into the path an out-of-control 4×4 Jeep. He suffered broken ribs, a bruised heart and devastating spinal damage, leaving him paralysed from the waist down.
Despite being told he would never walk again, the determined redcap set himself the goal of taking part in the London Marathon and threw himself into a gruelling rehabilitation programme. Cheered on by members of the public and servicemen, he spent a fortnight covering the 26 mile course through the capital’s streets and was welcomed at the finish line by Sir Steve Redgrave – until this week Britain’s greatest ever Olympian.
The adrenaline junkie rediscovered his love of physical challenges and has since rowed the English Channel, sailed dinghies and skydived with the Red Devils. In 2009 he scaled the El Capitan mountain in Yosemite National Park before going on to take part in the National Three Peaks Challenge for Sport Relief, climbing the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales within 72 hours.
Each of his previous challenges raised massive sums of money for charity and in 2010 he was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. The army officer is hoping his latest efforts will allow BRIT to deliver the first National Centre of Inspirational Excellence, bringing charities, businesses and public services together to help young people overcome adversity and regain their self belief, self confidence and self worth.
He added: “BRIT will bring together the support of businesses who understand the acute challenges young people face, charitable organisations willing to share best practice and high-profile individuals who are willing to share their gift to inspire. It is not our intention to ask the public to donate to BRIT; it is our aspiration to find financial support from philanthropists and high net worth individuals.
“We ask the public to identify inspiring individuals from your own community and those young people facing adversity, who could continue to help us steer and shape our mission. We want to support charities throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland, so we are asking people who are interested in doing their own 2,012 mile challenge to sign up in support of a charity of their choice.”
For more information, visit the British Inspiration Trust website.