West Ham United are honoured to raise awareness and funding for charity partner Blesma, The Limbless Veterans at today’s match
The Club once again selected Blesma as a charity partner for the 2017/18 season in honour of the Chadwell Heath-based charity’s work providing rehabilitative activities, support and some financial aid to limbless veterans.
Blesma, The Limbless Veterans became a national charity in 1932. However, the foundations were laid 15 years before then, during World War One.
Some 40,000 British Service men had come back from the Western Front having suffered life-changing injuries. Amputation techniques were in their infancy and artificial limbs primitive.
There was no NHS so, to fill the gap that the welfare state and Defence Medical Services now provides, these men came together as local networks to share knowledge, support each other and lobby the Government for better employment opportunities for the war disabled. These networks united to form the ‘British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association – Blesma’ in 1932.
West Ham United were delighted to welcome Blesma to their Rush Green training ground, where four of their members were given behind the scenes access to the facilities and a meet-and-greet session with the first-team squad and management. One of those members present, Matthew Weston, shared his story with Adrian and Pedro Obiang.
Matthew’s childhood fascination with cars and planes was a big part of the reason why, at age 16, he signed up for a bomb disposal role within the Royal Engineers.
Whilst British Troops were serving in Afghanistan, IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were a huge threat and in 2009, Matt headed to Afghanistan as part of a team which would dispose over 100 IEDs in just four months.
On 22 June 2009, 20-year-old Matt’s life would change forever.
“My memory of the fortnight up until the explosion is still hazy. The Taliban were using IEDs to channel us into certain areas, and soldiers were getting hit in hellish ambushes. We were close to a compound. I’d searched a doorway and it seemed to be clear. All I remember is a flash, my ears ringing, and the sensation of falling.”
That day, Matt lost both his legs and his right arm below the elbow in the blast.
His recovery has been long, slow and difficult and Matt has already had more than 50 operations. Matt’s first encounter with Blesma was when a Support Officer came to visit him at rehabilitation centre Headley Court.
“After my injury, the support officer I had was my lifeline. Blesma helps you move back into civilian life, but its people are ex-military, so they completely understand you. I know that Blesma will always be there for me, right through my life.”
If my chair breaks and I can’t repair it, Blesma will get it done. If I need guiding towards another kind of help as I get older, Blesma will help me with that, too.”
In February 2013, Matt swapped his Military uniform for a suit, as he underwent training to become an accessibility analyst at Barclays as part of the Armed Forces Transition Employment Resettlement (AFTER) programme to help injured soldiers into work. Two years later, Matt was employed full-time at Barclays and he is now Manager of the AFTER programme, helping to get ex-service men and women into the right civilian jobs when they leave the forces.
*Blesma needs to raise more than £4.5million in 2018 to continue this vital work. You can help them do that today by texting ‘WHFC86 £3’ to 70070 to donate £3 to Blesma.