TEN days after the explosion, war hero John “JJ” Chalmers lay shell-shocked in a Birmingham hospital bed thinking he would never walk again.
Three years on, the Royal Marine reservist has stepped on to a podium at the “Olympics for wounded soldiers” to collect a bronze medal in the 4x100m mixed relay.
Now the 26-year-old – whose body was mangled by an IED bomb in Afghanistan – is set to build on his success at Prince Harry’s Invictus Games and start a new life as a globe-trotting adventurer.
Lance Corporal John James Chalmers, known as JJ to his friends, underwent almost 30 operations after treading on an explosive while serving in Helmand in May 2011.
Doctors saved JJ’s right arm — from which a large chunk had been gouged — by using skin from his midriff. They cut open his abdomen and folded the loose flap of skin over his arm before sewing it in place inside
But he credits the ongoing Invictus Games for the major confidence boost that is set to change his life.
“I want to be an adventurer, in the sense that I’ve had an incredible experience doing this, and I want to grab as many opportunities as I can,” said JJ, who lives in Haymarket. I would like to go to the North Pole or climb Everest – something endurance-based.
“I don’t know what it will be, but I’m waiting for the opportunity to come along so I can just grab it.”
The Games, organised by Prince Harry, has left JJ “feeling like a rock star” and he is yet to compete in his strongest discipline – the cycling event – which starts today.
His proud father, Reverend John Chalmers, is the current moderator for the Church of Scotland and he still winces at the thought of his son’s horror attack.
“We had to go down to the hospital and spend the next ten days wondering if he was going to pull through,” said Rev Chalmers. “And it’s not over yet, as he has one operation after another but he’s made the most of life.”
The 61-year-old said the Invictus Games had been a “confidence boost” for the servicemen who took part.
Rev Chalmers said: “It’s been quite emotional. It’s incredible to see the guys whose morale has been lifted in such a way by the event.
“Some of these guys were told they would never walk again, and here they are competing in the Invictus Games.”
Prince Harry organised the four-day nine-sport competition after seeing how wounded troops in the US helped rebuild their lives by taking part in a similar Paralympic-style Warrior Games.
A version of US warrior games
THE Invictus Games is known as the “Olympics for wounded soldiers” and was established by Prince Harry who sought to create a UK version of the Warrior Games in America.
The Paralympic-style event – premièring this year – sees injured soldiers compete in a variety of different sports, including athletics, cycling, wheelchair basketball and indoor rowing.
It sees 400 athletes from 13 nations battle it out at venues used at London 2012 Olympics, including the Lee Valley Athletics Centre. The Games, which began on Wednesday and run until tomorrow, are backed by the Ministry of Defence and seek to celebrate those who risked life for country.