29 June 2023

Former employee Rich Waldrom will compete in the Invictus Games with Team UK

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Former Racal Acoustics employee Rich Waldrom is using the power of cycling to overcome complex mental health conditions and is competing in this year’s Invictus Games in Düsseldorf (9th – 16th September).

The Invictus Games is about much more than just sport

The Invictus Games is a biannual international multi-sport event first held in 2014, for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women, both serving and veterans.

The word ‘invictus’ means ‘unconquered’. It embodies the fighting spirit of the participants and personifies what they can achieve post injury. The Games harness the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their country.

Former Racal employee

Rich at Racal Acoustics headquarters

How do you recall your time at Racal Acoustics?
Rich: I started working at Racal Acoustics in 2007. It was one of my first jobs out of the military. So, I have always had a very close affinity to the company, as it is where I learned my craft when I went out of the army. I had a great time there and we did great things together.

In 2010, I organized a charity ride with Racal’s staff. We did a big cycling challenge “3 peaks”, where we cycled between the 3 highest peeks in Wales, England and Scotland. We did that over 9 days and it was an amazing experience. That’s what rebirthed my love for cycling.

The journey to the Games

UK Team official photo

When did you join the Army and why did you leave?
Rich: I joined the British Army in 1992. I started on the big artillery platforms as a young soldier but eventually moved to forward observer positions. I spent a lot of time in the 1990s in Bosnia and Kosovo. I think they were probably some of the most difficult for me, given that I was a young lad. The level of brutality was appalling, so I decided to stop in 2010.

In 2018, my life took an unexpected turn when I began experiencing panic and anxiety attacks. Little did I know that these episodes would be the first indicators of a condition that would change my life: Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) leaving me with debilitating anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I eventually realised this wasn’t going to go away on its own and I needed to lean into it and take it head on.

How did you know about the Games and why did you decide to participate?
Rich: After the difficult episodes, the Invictus programme was suggested to me as something to take a look at. I felt very much I wasn’t eligible or worthy. But I applied in June 2022 and was accepted into the programme. I was invited to my first pre-selection camp in Colchester in November 2022, and despite a lot of reluctance and feelings of being a fraud I was persuaded to attend.
I was apprehensive, but as the first day got underway, I began to feel more and more at home. Meeting other veterans and listening to their stories made me realise I wasn’t alone; I wasn’t a fraud and I did belong to this group after all. I then attended my second selection camp in December after which I was invited to submit my formal application to be part of Team UK.

I took a long time to write my application. I was very apprehensive about submitting it, fearing what rejection might do to me. But I realised that even if I wasn’t selected, I had gained so much from the camps that I could use that as a platform to build on. I finally submitted my application and had very little expectation of being selected, believing there were others who were more worthy of the places than me.

On February 2023 I received the email confirming I had been selected. It took a while to sink in that I was part of the team and get to represent my country once again. I had an overwhelming feeling of being valid again, of my struggles with my health and CPTSD had been legitimised and I was not simply faking my way through life.

What exactly is the preparation for the Games?

Rich training for the Games

Rich: Even though I have participated in different cycling endourance events, I have never raced before, so this is a whole new type of cycling for me, a new challenge. It is a 30-minute race that requires a big burst of energy, control and tactics. So I have a personal trainer that helps me train in the most efficient way. And I am learning a lot about aerodynamics and proper positions too.

Not alone in this battle

What is your vision after the Games?
Rich: The fight for support for veterans’ mental health care is something that has been close to my heart for many years, and I want to use this opportunity to raise awareness about the needs of our veterans. I therefore encourage individuals and businesses to join me in supporting veterans in their local communities by setting up a simple “Brew Check”. A monthly get together of local veterans at a café in your area, providing a simple, cost effective, no stress environment to just talk. I hope that maybe we can reach out to those veterans who don’t know where to turn, or just want to chat with likeminded people.

Rich’s photos at Racal Acoustics courtesy of Victor Shack Photography

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Posted 29 June 2023