FOUR soldiers who witnessed the horrors of war will be running 43 miles to raise cash for their fallen heroes.
The four – Thomas Collins, 25, Steve Evans, 30, Martin Howie, 23, and Martin James Perch, 24, all from Harlech – will start their circular run at 5am tomorrow from Harlech, before heading through Maentwrog, Trawsfynydd, Llanelltyd, Barmouth and back to Harlech.
They have been training hard for the run and hope to return to the castle town by 7pm.
They are raising money for the Royal British Legion which helps soldiers get trained for other jobs once they leave the Armed Forces, as well as helping their comrades with rehabilitation if they’re injured or maimed in action. This year the charity is celebrating its 90th anniversary.
Tom joined the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment and served in Afghanistan. He’s now left the Army and, with the help of the RBL, is attending college in Blackpool to qualify for working on oil rigs.
Tom said: “I’m organising this run to put something back to support the Armed Forces and those in the ex-forces community. I’m looking to show that the community supports them. This is the spirit encapsulated as ‘shoulder to shoulder with those who serve’.
Tom remembers almost daily battles with the Taliban in north Helmand. In one night-time air raid their Chinook came under fire and they landed nearby.
Tom said: “Using night-vision I could see them 30 yards in front of me. I was the platoon machine gunner and the commander asked if I was sure they had weapons. I said yes and I pulled the safety off and opened fire on five men.
“You don’t have time to feel scared. You’re scared in your downtime when you relive your day and before setting out on foot patrol each day, but you psych yourself up. Your thought and feelings get left behind and your skills take over. It’s the only way forward.”
Steve Evans 30, has served in The Royal Welsh Fusiliers for 13 years and has been on operational tours in Afghanistan, Northern Ireland and Iraq. Another deployment to Afghanistan looms soon.
Father-of-two Steve said: “I was part of Operation Mostarak when we went into the back garden or home of the Taliban. We were fire-fighting with the Taliban every day without anywhere to sleep and covered in fleas and all sorts of diseases.
“My mate got shot in his chest but was saved by the body armor. I go to Hedley Court where injured soldiers are looked after to see a mate from Wrexham who was blinded and lost his legs.
“When I go home to Harlech they don’t realise what it’s like for an 18 or 19 year old to see things the average person will never see. They wake up in Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham and they've got no legs and feel like everybody has forgotten about them. It’s important we don’t forget these very brave lads.”
Now looking ahead to returning to Afghanistan, Steve added: “Out there you can’t think about people back home – the moment you lose concentration, that’s the moment you could be hit.”
Martin Howie, 23, joined The Royal Welsh aged 16 and has served in Afghanistan, Northern Ireland and Iraq. He left the forces at 22 and is following a course at Stoke on Trent working on excavators.
He said: “Nine of us were on patrol and came across an anti-tank explosive. The ninth was blown up. He kept his life but lost his leg.”
The three will be joined by Martin James Perch, 24, who joined the Royal Marines aged 18, but suffered an injury.
You can support Run for Heroes 2011 at justgiving.com/Thomas-Collins or send a cheque to The Royal British Legion, PO BOX 2254, Wrexham LL11 0DA
Good luck and best wishes to you all