Two former soldiers embarking on 48-hour hike to give back

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09 April 2024

Jacobs Ladder and the surrounding hills make up a beautiful stretch of Derbyshire’s Peak District. Next month, William Hitch and Alex Sweeney will experience it for themselves while hiking 100 miles of the park over a 48 hour period without sleep, while raising funds for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

William and Alex from Derbyshire are both former members of the 2nd Battalion Mercian Regiment. William joined in 2008 and spent time in Northern Ireland, Kenya, and Germany before being deployed to Afghanistan in 2011. Alex joined in 2011 and spent time serving in Kenya and the Falklands.

During his time in Afghanistan, William and several others suffered significant injuries. Two of his close friends lost their legs to IEDs, and one of them suffered further damages to their arms and hands.

William added: “Two other members of our Command Post were shot in the chest, one of my other good friends Daniel was shot in the magazine pouch which resulted in shrapnel exploding into his face. I was also shot in the arm during an operation clearing compounds that manufactured IEDs.”

After a 2012 diagnosis of testicular cancer 2014 saw William being medically discharged and returned home, but his struggles did not end there. William suffers from PTSD from his tour in Afghanistan, and for six years he internalised this struggle and avoided reaching out for help.

Enough was enough and William’s wife booked him an appointment with a mental health team in Derbyshire. After 18 months of therapy he is more able to control his trauma and be present with his family. William has been married for 13 years and has a five-year-old daughter Olivia.

William has chosen SSAFA for his fundraising efforts: “As I have personally suffered and kept my mental health from my friends and family, Alex and I want to raise awareness and encourage people to get the support they need. SSAFA is the steppingstone in the journey for many people particularly ex-servicemembers. Mental health matters: don’t suffer in silence, and don’t be afraid to speak up.”

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