COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Retired British Army Lance Cpl. Jon Le Galloudec is determined to live life to the fullest as a way to honor a fallen comrade.
Le Galloudec, or “Frenchie,” as he’s known to his friends and teammates, was serving in the Al Atiyah district of Basra, Iraq, in June 2007, when he was shot in the lower spine by an enemy sniper and subsequently paralyzed from the waist down.
His best friend, Cpl. Rodney Wilson, was shot and killed as he tried to drag him to safety.
Le Galloudec was sent to Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, England, for intensive rehabilitation following his surgery. It was there that physicians told him it was extremely unlikely he would ever walk again.
Approximately two months later, he proved them wrong by taking his first steps with the aid of canes.
Le Galloudec said that walking out of the hospital a couple of months later was one of the best days of his life.
The driving force behind his recovery has been the knowledge that his friend and fellow service member, Cpl. Wilson, made the ultimate sacrifice.
“He gave his life to save a life,” Le Galloudec said. “I can’t waste it.”
Le Galloludec’s road to recovery has been long, but he remains motivated to walk again, unaided.
“I still fatigue quite easily,” Le Galloudec said, “so I keep the (wheel)chair as a backup. But I do like to try and walk everywhere if I can.”
Nearly six years later, although he continues his quest to walk completely unassisted, Le Galloudec has accomplished quite a few amazing feats, and he doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.
This is Le Galloudec’s first appearance at the Warrior Games presented by Deloitte. He joins 31 other athletes representing the British Armed Forces at the Warrior Games, now in its fourth year. About 260 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans will participate in seven sports (archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball). Athletes represent Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Special Operations as well as the British Armed Forces.
Le Galloudec started the competition with the hand cycling event, where he was given a royal sendoff at the starting line by England’s Prince Harry.
He even took to Twitter to do a bit of bragging: “Jon Le Galloudec @Jon_leg - Had a good chat with Prince Harry at the start line. His advice was just win mate. So I came (13)th!!! Close enough I think!!!”
“It was brilliant,” Le Galloudec said of the encounter with the Prince. “I’ve met him before, and he’s always such a lovely lad. It’s just like talking to a normal bloke, really.”
Prince Harry also carries a good bit of clout with the service members here.
“We give him such huge respect because he’s been out there twice now to Afghanistan, and he knows what he’s talking about,” Le Galloudec said. “He’s not just shaking your hand and nodding out of politeness, he understands. I think that’s why he’s such a huge supporter of us.”
Le Galloudec finished 13th in the hand cycling event, an accomplishment of which he’s quite proud.
“I didn’t even expect to finish in the top 20,” he said, “and to finish with a personal best time was quite brilliant.”
Le Galloudec also plans to compete in the 50- and 100-meter swimming events, but is not as confident of his abilities in the pool.
“Truthfully, I swim like a brick,” he said. “It’s challenging, and it’s something I’m not used to. But that’s what these games are all about, right? You come over here and challenge yourself. “
When asked if he’s been training for the swimming events, Le Galloudec joked, “I’ve been doing a couple of lengths in my hot tub!”
“They’ve been instrumental in my recuperation,” Le Galloudec said. “They got me the right equipment to train, to do physiotherapy. Without them I’d probably be a year or two behind where I am right now in my recovery.”
And what a recovery that has been.
In 2009, Le Galloudec joined other injured and able-bodied service members to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in a bid to raise more approximately $150,000 for the Help for Heroes charity.
Motivated by the positive response to the climb, and eager to raise additional funds for the charity, Le Galloudec set his sights on Everest. In November, 2011, Le Galloudec, his father, and a group of 30 climbers trekked across the valleys of the Himalayas to reach Everest base camp.
As if climbing the world’s most demanding mountains isn’t challenging enough, Le Galloudec also participates in sled hockey and hopes to qualify for the team that will represent Great Britain at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
Le Galloudec said the experience at his first Warrior Games has been an amazing one, and he plans on returning next year.
“I just want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who supported us – friends, family, everyone who came out to see us here in the U.S.,” he said. “It’s been absolutely incredible.”
For more from the 2013 Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, visit teamusa.org/warriorgames/.