Bedford man sets himself one-million-metre rowing challenge to help wounded veterans

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Blesma Charity
Image: Blesma/LinkedIn

A Bedford man has set himself a target to row one-million-metres to raise £10,000 for Blesma, a charity that supports veterans who have lost limbs while serving in the UK armed forces.

Former soldier, Gary Huntley, is rowing the distance on his rowing machine in his spare time and has set himself just 66 days to complete his mission.


You can donate to Gary’s Blesma fundraiser here


What’s more, Gary has had a double knee replacement due to wear and tear during his 22 years of service with the 1st Battalion of The Parachute Regiment and the 2nd Battalion of The Royal Irish Regiment.

“It is both mentally and very physically challenging in that the 66 Days does not allow me to have any rest days,” says Gary

“I am very conscious of my double total knee replacements and often have to adjust my rowing technique if they decide that they are having a bad day.

“You have to do it no matter what time of day or night it is, such as me getting off the rowing machine after completing 15,000m by midnight the other night.”

But, Gary seems set to complete his challenge as he passed the half-way mark a few days ago, even beating his 15,000m PB time.

Gary passed 500,000 meters this week

“To assist limbless veterans to lead independent and fulfilling lives”

The money Gary raises will go to Blesma, an armed forces non-profit charity supporting limbless veterans in the UK for the duration of their lives.

Since World War 1, Blesma has helped 62,000 limbless and wounded veterans. That’s despite receiving no funding from this government or the last.

“Blesma is totally funded 100% by the kindness and generosity of US the British public,” adds Gary, who wants to raise £10,000 to support them.

Gary hopes people will now sponsor him with his challenge, helping to support veterans who he says “seldom receive any kind of real thanks for their sacrifice or dedication”.

“Please show your gratitude for the fantastic work that our forces do both at home or abroad whenever called upon, by supporting our troops in whatever way you see fit.

“Whether that be donating to many of the other small charities that also support our veteran’s post-discharge.

“You could even send an anonymous food parcel to one of our serving men or women stationed overseas during a holiday season,” says Gary.


You can donate to Gary’s Blesma fundraiser here


Gary Huntley
Image: Gary Huntley/Facebook

More than just physical scars

Through his challenge, Gary has also highlighted what he feels is a lack of support for ex-servicemen and women who suffer from PTSD.

“I think the whole of the Government, has and continues to fail our brave men and women, who go off to fight and serve their country,” he says.

“Their support and aftercare of our servicemen and women have been totally inadequate and still is.

Gary says that he sees evidence every week of veterans suffering from the invisible scars of PTSD in the social media veterans groups he belongs to.

“All too often these same veterans end up taking their own lives,” he says.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Johnny Mercer has urged ex-service personnel to access the wide range of mental health support he says the Government offers.

“From the moment you transition out of the armed forces, support for veterans from the NHS and the brilliant armed forces charities is out there,” he said.

“But I recognise we need to do more and as Veterans Minister, I will continue to ensure that veterans issues are at the heart of government policy.”

It was widely reported in March last year that more than a dozen former British soldiers who fought in Afghanistan had killed themselves within two months.

Bedford boot camps

Since leaving the Army in 2008, Gary has been running his PT company, Gary Huntley Training, in the UK and in Copenhagen, Denmark.

He’s even been asked to train several Danish TV and Film celebrities in general fitness and role preparation prior to filming.

Although, due to the coronavirus lockdown, Gary has been in front of the camera himself offering classes to his clients over video call.

He adds he hopes to be running boot camps in Bedford once the weather breaks and becomes lighter in the evenings.

To find out more, head to Instagram and Facebook or email him at Gary@garyhuntley.com.

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