Date: Thursday February 11, 2021 at 8:58am
A former homeless British Army veteran is walking 10km every day for the rest of lockdown to raise money for a charity that helped find him a home.
Gareth Humphrey, from Northampton, was diagnosed with PTSD last year after suffering a mental breakdown and said he was "pretty much at rock bottom".
The former gunner is now carrying 30kg on his daily 10km walk to raise funds to give back to the Armed Forces charity SSAFA and raise awareness of mental health issues.
"I found myself jobless, homeless – I ended up living in a caravan for about nine months, so I’d be relying on food banks, pretty much at rock bottom," he said.
Mr Humphrey spent 17 years in the Army and Fire and Rescue Service.
During his time in the Army, he served as part of 7th Parachute Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, and deployed to Iraq.
He said he only reflected on some of the events he experienced in the country after returning home.
Speaking to Forces News, Mr Humphrey recalled "hearing the shells come down" and writing letters to his mother from the war zone as a young man in his late teens.
"You’re part of a big group of friends, you’ve got your buddies around you and you don’t think it’s bothered you," he said.
"It’s when you come out and you sit down – you think ‘hang about, that’s not real, that’s not normal life,' if there is such a thing as normal life."
After his breakdown in February 2020, the veteran was helped back on his feet by SSAFA, and he discovered a new hobby.
After a year away from exercise, Mr Humphrey decided to walk 10km.
"From that day on, life just got better and better," he said.
He has now set up a JustGiving page and is using the perseverance he developed within the forces to walk a 10k every day until the end of lockdown.
"There’s often times on operations or out on exercise in the Army when you’ve got your rations and that’s it – you’ve got your mate sat next to you and that is it.
"At times when I’m down or I was down, it gives you the determination to keep going and think to yourself, 'You know what? I’ve been worse than this, I’ve been colder, I’ve been wetter, I’ve been hungrier.'"
One month into the challenge and the veteran is going strong, batting away any potential sympathy for "normal aches and pains" while planning to walk his final 10km with 54kg on his back.
Like many charities, SSAFA has had to work hard to remain afloat during the COVID pandemic.
It has a 5,000-strong team of staff and volunteers across 10 countries and has established an emergency response fund to continue its support to the military community.
(Picture: Gareth Humphrey).