Welsh Army veteran Jonathan Congreve, 57, from Gelligaer was honoured by Caerphilly County Borough Council at a meeting of full council at Penallta House on Tuesday March 3.
Mr Congreve has been selected to represent Team UK at the Invictus Games in May and will be competing in archery, swimming and rowing events. Jon served in the army for 22 years, leaving the service as a Staff Sergeant in the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers.
Accompanied by his wife Debbie, Jon was thanked for representing the county by Mayor Cllr Julian Simmonds and Cllr Nigel George, and wished well for his on-going preparations for the competition.
As well as engaging with Help for Heroes’ Invictus training camps since his selection for Team UK in October last year, Jon has been supported in his Invictus journey by the charity’s Community Recovery Team based in Treforest. As part of the 65-strong team of wounded, injured and sick (WIS) military personnel and veterans taking part in the Games, Jon will be joined by Help for Heroes Wales & Hereford Sports Recovery Coordinator Nick Vanderpump, 24, from Bridgend.
Nick says, “I’ve seen the difference Community Sports Recovery has played in the lives of the men and women who will be taking part in this inspirational event. Even when someone is affected by illness or injury, sport is incredibly powerful in bringing people together and giving them purpose in life.”
Jon says being part of the Invictus Games will have life-saving benefits not only for himself, but for his friends and family. Having been diagnosed with PTSD, sport and Invictus training camps have renewed his confidence and self-esteem to the point where his loved ones say he is nearly “back to normal”. On spending time with his teammates, Jonathan said he feels part of a team again, something which was missing since he left the Army, “The resilience they show in not letting their injuries define or restrict them, is really inspiring.”
Jon signed up to the Army on 28th October 1989 and served 22 years, leaving as a Staff Sergeant with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers. His injuries include Cervical Disc Disease, Osteoarthritis and Bilateral tendinitis which affects his hips and back.
More than 350 military personnel and veterans trialled nine sports for one of the 65 places available on Team UK. The rigorous selection process was based on the benefit the Invictus Games will give an individual as part of their recovery, combined with performance and commitment to training.
Recovery Manager Shelley Elgin says, “Since beginning his Invictus journey, Jon has benefited from the camaraderie and support of our fellowship and sports hubs, including weekly pilates and circuits sessions gifted to Help for Heroes by Nuffield Health in Bridgend. We are delighted that Jon’s wife Debbie has decided to give back to the charity by volunteering her own time at our monthly fellowship events in Bridgend and Jon and Debbie are both valued members of the Help for Heroes family in Wales.”
The charity is grateful to the support of Caerphilly County Borough Council in the lead-up to Jon taking part in the Invictus Games, which will take place in the Hague, as he has been given temporary free access to the council’s leisure facilities, and a grant towards travel costs.
Ms Elgin said, “Lisa Rawlings, Caerphilly’s Regional Armed Forces Covenant Liaison Officer, is a veteran herself, and has been a true champion of the men and women we support across South East Wales. Lisa has been instrumental in raising the profile of the services we deliver, and the support Help for Heroes can provide to those affected by military service.”
Help for Heroes Community Recovery staff work throughout Wales and Hereford, delivering life-changing services including welfare and career advice, 1-2-1 support, fellowship, sports recovery and clinical liaison. Every activity the charity offers is designed to improve the wellbeing of men and women who have been injured or become ill during their military career.
Every week the charity facilitates community hubs, events and workshops which can develop camaraderie and inspire, enable and support this talented and valuable section of the community to live lives with purpose once more.
Ms Eglin adds, “Help for Heroes relies on the generosity of the public to support our work and we are incredibly grateful to everyone who takes time to volunteer to collect for us, hosts a sponsored event or activity to raise vital funds to Help for Heroes.”