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So, who am I? Who is HASSCASTS?
Well, my name is John Evans and I hail from Barnsley, in Yorkshire, England. I’m in my 40s and I’m a disabled war veteran.
I joined the British Army in 1998, and in the years 2000, I broke my back and dislocated my shoulder on an assault course. Although my shoulder injury was immediately obvious, my back injury was a completely different story.
It was not discovered that I had 3 broken bones in my lower back until around the year 2013. I have been given the explanation that during this 13-year gap my activity levels were high and the muscles around the L4/L5 vertebrae area were compacted enough to hold everything in place enough to not cause severe damage. I constantly had back problems and for most of the 13
when we had our official inspection period, I remembering severely over-medicating in order to get through it, this made me numb to the pain, but it resulted in me becoming a quivering wreck in the fetal position at the feet of my Doctor/Medical Officer. Admittedly, I had used a months worth of medication during 7 consecutive 14-hour workdays. For others reading this, I do not advise following my example. However…the section I was in charge of did pass its inspection.
During my time, I was never the fittest in my unit and often struggled, especially when it came to hills or load carrying (in hindsight it was obviously because of my broken back). My sporting hobbies included running by myself, cycling, again, by myself and swimming.
On one occasion, I got to represent my Regiment at an event called the Trailwalker (now run by Oxfam). The event is basically, a 100 Kilometers (62.1 miles) run, as part of a 4 man team. We managed to complete the run in 19 hours, but to be honest, we had hardly trained for it. We had a decent training schedule set out. We trained for a month, then we unexpectedly got sent on a military training exercise for 3 weeks and once we got back, there was no point in doing any serious training for the last week as the risk of injury with such a short time to go meant we just did a few runs and then waited until the big event.
I also represented my Squadron on several occasions at swimming. I normally competed at the shorter distance, ranging anywhere from 20M to 100M. It’s weird that I was a stamina based runner, but when it came to swimming, I was best at sprint distances. I am aware of the different muscle groups and that the 2 sports use different sets of muscles, but I think it more a matter of personal preference though.
I also enjoyed cycling and when I was often on light duties (meaning I wasn’t allowed to do runs on organised Physical Training (PT), I would get my racing bike out and see how quickly I could do the circuit of the barracks (I think it’s around 8.5 miles), either 1, 2 or even 3 laps if I had time.
Operation Telic 1
In early 2003, I went on my 1st operation tour, which was Operation Telic (Op Telic 1) in Iraq. The small team I was in charge of was chosen to support the Parachute Regiment (Paras) and was the 1st from the unit to go across the border from Kuwait into Iraq. We went across with the Paras and after a short time, they stopped and I took my teams 2 vehicles ahead, and on we went own way. That is as much as I can tell you; I was the leading asset of my type and my team was of critical importance to the entire British success in Iraq. As a result, my unit command received several letters from other units commending the service and often, the ingenuity of my team and I, overcoming both conventional and unconventional problems with both conventional and, at times, very unconventional solutions.
Operation Telic 2
As the last task of my 1st tour, I moved my vehicles to a town called Al-Amarah, halfway between Basra and Baghdad. I then chose to continue my adventure in Iraq and volunteered for Op. Telic 2, and another 6 months in the country. I went home for a month (2 weeks R&R from Op. Telic 1 and 2 weeks R&R from Op. Telic 2) and then returned to Al-Amarah to support a different Regiment of the Paras and the Kings Own Scottish Borders Regiment (KOSBies).
Operation Telic 4 to 5
After Op. Telic, I returned to my unit and training. The unit was not due to go out on Operation tour for quite a while, so I once again volunteered to go out to Iraq. This time it was as part of a bomb-disposal team based at both Al-Amarah and Basra.
The things I saw and experienced between Op. Telic 1 and Op. Telic 4-5 changed my entire outlook on humanity and the value of human life, and as a result, they have left me as an emotional cripple.
In October 2005, I went with my unit to Afghanistan. Compared to my 1st and 3rd tours of Iraq (and what others did in Afghan.). my tour of that country was a dream, and in fact, I was stationed in a place known as “Slipper City” as it was the NATO headquarters in Kabul and as such was home to the top level of the hierarchy from NATO in the country.
Although the danger levels were less than my previous tours, the level of importance was very significant, and I was in charge of most of the communication between Kabul and the UK. At the time, I had/chose to subject myself to massive levels of electronic radiation. Again, I received letters of commendation for my service and dedication.
Leaving the Army
Whilst on tour in Afghanistan, I had the idea of setting up a business dedicated to supporting members of the British Armed Forces based outside of the British Mainland bases. I would deliver orders placed from Service families who wanted items delivering that either was too large/heavy for the BFPO postal system or from companies who would not deliver to BFPO addresses (even though it is to an address in London, England).
Unfortunately, I discovered that as a result of setting up the business, I was… as it happens… a terrible businessman. I much preferred the work itself to the [necessary] paperwork. This obviously is not conducive to a healthy business environment, and so after a year or so, the business failed.
Lack of activity & A Career Change
As a result of the business failing, my activity levels fell and my back problem became more pronounced.
I also decided to turn my hobby of Web Development into a job and I became a Freelance Web Developer. This actually went quite well and I managed to keep up to date with the minimalist paperwork involved. I had a steady stream of work, but unfortunately, my career as a Web Developer meant I was sitting for 14 plus hours every day. I didn’t mind the hours as I loved what I was doing. back condition got worse and worse and eventually, I could no longer work.
By this time, my Doctor was investigating the problem, and after sending me for X-rays etc the broken bones were discovered, and I was booked in for surgery shortly after.
After the surgery, I was bed-ridden and gradually got the strength to increase my activity. Eventually, I was able to walk quite a bit, and I started looking for a full-time job.
Getting back to work
I gained employment as a Software Engineer working for Sky Bet, in Leeds, UK. This went quite well, and I really enjoyed my job. To complement the working part of my life, I also wanted to get back up to fitness. So I started swimming several times a week, as my Surgeon had suggested. After a month of swimming, I went for a few very slow, very short jogs with a view to gradually increase my speed and distance. This was also agreed with the Surgeon in advance and so I was confident that things would go well.
So now you know a little about me, why not find out about my decline through pain; depression and PTSD? Then you can read how I’m taking control of my life back and am once again, starting to find my place in the world, thanks to YOU!