A VETERAN has been shortlisted for a national award celebrating the armed forces community.
Mary Wilson, from Edinburgh, is in the running for the sporting excellence prize in the annual Soldiering On Awards.
The former army nurse, who now works as Help for Heroes’ first Band of Brothers and Sisters coordinator for Scotland, was nominated by her proud 90-year-old father, William Hepburn.
His submission to the judging panel told how Mary had overcome several setbacks in her career that prevented her from playing and enjoying sport at the level she had been used to. But, instead of giving up, she has focused her energy on empowering and inspiring other wounded and injured veterans.
Mary was in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps for 20 years, reaching the rank of staff sergeant and serving in many locations including Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Belize. She was also in charge of the Field Mental Health team in Afghanistan for three months.
During her career, she was recommended for Mention in Dispatches due to an act of bravery, received the MOD People’s Award for Inspiration and the Burroughs Cup for her outstanding contribution to military mental health.
But in 2000, while attending a military horse-riding course, Mary was thrown from her horse, hitting a wall and breaking her cheekbone, two toes in her right foot and ripping her bicep muscle from her right shoulder. Four years later, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
After three operations, which left her with very limited arm movement, arthritis and constant pain, she was medically discharged in December 2012. Determined to retain her fitness, Mary trained hard and, the following year, was selected to compete in the US Warrior Games. By then, she was receiving support from Help for Heroes and, in 2014, participated in the inaugural Invictus Games where not only did she win five medals, but she captained the Field Team.
Mary now teaches swimming not just to wounded former forces members but also to the LGBT community of Edinburgh. She is hoping to take her Level 1 coaching in wheelchair tennis this summer and has set up sessions for members of Help for Heroes Band of Brothers and Band of Sisters support groups, in rowing, canoeing and sailing at Strathclyde Park, near Glasgow, every Thursday morning, and dinghy sailing taster sessions at St Andrews Sailing and Coastal Rowing Club.
Mary said: “Sport is a medicine like no other. Along with Help for Heroes, it helped me regain focus, determination and enthusiasm.
“It instils passion, pride, determination, friendship and comradeship and that’s what I want to pass on to others.”
Mary will find out if she has won her category at the Soldiering On Awards on Friday at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel, London.