RAF veteran Mr Chris Gangel is planning to do a skydive for Blesma, the charity that helped Mr Johno Lee after he had his leg amputated following an explosion in Afghanistan 270717LSP9-1
RAF veteran Mr Chris Gangel is planning to do a skydive for Blesma, the charity that helped Mr Johno Lee after he had his leg amputated following an explosion in Afghanistan 270717LSP9-1

A 73-year-old Armed Forces veteran is planning a skydive for a charity that helps injured Servicemen and women.

Mr Chris Gangel, of Newark, who served in the RAF, is supporting Blesma, the charity for limbless veterans.

Mr Gangel is friends with former soldier Mr Johno Lee, of Coddington, who said that without Blesma’s support he doubted he would be alive today.

“I was with the RAF for 21 years before Civvie Street,” said Mr Gangel, who worked for East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) after leaving the RAF.

“At the time that I left, British forces started to get involved in conflicts like the two Gulf Wars, Afghanistan and Syria.

“Blesma is a national charity that has been helping out since the back end of world war one.

“While I was working for EMAS I often found that ex-Servicemen who were fully able-bodied but with post-traumatic stress disorder did not recover as well as those who had lost limbs.

“Blesma’s support is across the board. They do an amazing job looking after anyone who needs them, but they are a charity and need funds.”

Mr Gangel said he volunteered to do a skydive after a few drinks with members of the Newark Parachute Regimental Association following a military parade.

He has elected to do the jump with the Parachute Regiment’s world-famous Red Devils.

It will take place at Langar Airfield on September 5, weather-permitting.

Mr Gangel has set himself a fundraising target of £1,500 and is half-way there.

Johno, now a married father-of-two, lost a leg after being blown up in Afghanistan.

He said: “On November 9, 2007, my life was changed forever when I was injured.

“Two weeks later I had my right leg amputated.”

'If it wasn't for Charlie I wouldn't be alive today'

Soon after he was seen by Blesma support worker Charlie Streether.

“If it wasn’t for Charlie Streether I wouldn’t be alive today,” said Johno. “I would have committed suicide.

“Blesma offer you hope and motivation again.

“They offer opportunities like the transatlantic yacht race that I went on.

“The idea is that you can prove to yourself that you are still able to do things and things that you have never done before.

“They also offer practical support, such as paying for decorating where properties might have been damaged by wheelchair use or for paying a gardener because amputees might not be able to do that for themselves.

“They have key-workers in every area. If you ring them, they will come to your house.”

Blesma’s support gave Johno new hope and direction.

They made him part of a transatlantic yacht race crew made up entirely of wounded Forces personnel and the experience set him on the road to recovery. He is now a Newark and Sherwood district councillor and has ambitions of becoming an MP.

He is organising The Unsung Heroes Ball in the Cedric Ford Pavilion at Newark Showground on September 9 for Blesma and ABF ­— The Soldiers’ Charity as a way of saying thank you to the charities and medics whose expertise saved his life when his heart stopped twice after he was injured, and those of many others.

Mr Streether has been invited as a guest of honour to the event where multi-platinum selling Brit-Award-winner Gabrielle will perform.

The ball is almost sold out. More information is available at the Unsung Heroes Ball website

Johno is taking part in a national study investigating if injured Servicemen and women live as long as those who were not hurt, and whether they are more likely to develop further medical conditions.

Johno was one of three Servicemen from the Newark area among the 200 most seriously wounded personnel from 2003-2009.

To sponsor Mr Gangel, go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/chris-gangel

Donations can also be made in collection boxes around Newark, or by texting BFPO50 followed by the amount (for example BFPO50 £5) to 70070. Donations of £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 and £10 can be made.