A Bognor resident’s path has lead him from an abruptly-terminated career in the military to representing his nation at Amputee Football.
Now married with a five-year-old son and working as a teacher at Chichester College, Chris Waller was seriously injured whilst serving in 1st Batallion, the Grenadier Guards.
Chris said: “My wife Sara found out she was expecting a day before I flew out for a six-month tour in Afghanistan. Three months in, on July 7, 2012, I stood on an improvised explosive device (IED) whilst on a foot patrol.”
Two years’ rehabilitation and job training then followed.
From day one at defence medical rehabilitation centre Headley Court, Chris knew he had to get on with things: “There was a Royal Marine in the bed opposite. He was a triple amputee from an IED blast the same day as me, but exactly one year previously. I noticed he had no wheelchair, but I did. Early the next morning, he put his legs on and walked himself into the shower. From that point on, I had no excuse to be in a wheelchair.”
Chris’s teaching career was launched via a mentoring course run by charity Help for Heroes, which arranged a six-week placement at Felpham Community College.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it. My old college tutor Ray was still there and he helped me massively. He helped me get in on a voluntary basis at first, while I did my two-year teacher training under Portsmouth University.”
Chris also plays for Portsmouth Amputee Football Club, run in Havant by Pompey in the Community.
It is one of eight teams under the England Amputee Football Association (EAFA), which provides the chance to play football from grassroots to international levels.
Chris said: “We played in a tournament in Poland last year against five other counties and won. We then went to Turkey in October for the European Championships. We narrowly lost 2-1 to Turkey in the final in front of 44,000 fans at the Besiktas stadium.”
He said amputee football is well established in Turkey and Poland and provides team members with full-time jobs.
“I’m hoping to raise £750 to get me to Greece in June to play their team. We are not funded by the Football Association, so the EAFA has to find the funds to get us to Greece and Mexico, where the team will enter the World Cup in October this year.
“If there’s anyone who can help, please do get in touch.”
To find out more, visit https://en-gb.facebook.com/PompeyAmputeesFC/
‘Adapt and overcome’
The message to youngsters is that life’s challenges are there to be overcome, according to Chris Waller, who represents the nation at Amputee Football and teaches at Chichester College.
An associate lecturer, sport and public services, Chris predominantly works with 16 to 19 year-olds in units related to the uniformed services and the sports industry.
Dedicated to helping students gain knowledge of and choose careers in these fields, his classes investigate the leisure industry, sports leadership and health and safety issues, as well as map reading and a range of uniformed services entry tests.
Chris said: “I teach on the same course I did when I was 16 in the same class.”
As a military veteran and amputee who retrained as a teacher, Chris said he felt he could help his students see, no matter what they faced in life, it was possible to ‘adapt and overcome’.
He said: “I have no regrets about my time in the services and I would do it all again if I went back to 2005, when I signed up.
“I also like to join in on a lot of the fitness sessions to show them that, if I can take part, then so can they.
“At 16, I had barely left Chichester, let alone the country.
“I didn’t want to grow old without any stories to tell, so I guess that was a big reason for me wanting to join the Army.
“I left college at 17 and worked for nearly two years doing random jobs thinking ‘Is this it? Is this my life until I retire?’”
Chris said he can empathise with his students: “I remember the feelings that they have about their futures.”
He said the course taught him life skills and helped him when he went through the recruitment process, as he had been taught what to expect.
“In the short time I’ve been teaching, I regularly see ex-students pop up to our office proudly wearing their uniforms.
“They are keen to share their stories with our students.
“I’ve been given cards and chocolates. They will often stay in contact with us throughout their career and help to set up trips for our students to visit different work environments.”
To find out more about Chichester College’s uniformed services and sport courses, ‘come to a College open day or pick up a prospectus’, or see https://chichester.ac.uk
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