Hartlepool veteran to represent British Armed Forces at international event

Gaz Golightly with wife Denise and daughters Clarissa, four, and two-year-old Brianna
Gaz Golightly with wife Denise and daughters Clarissa, four, and two-year-old Brianna

A TOWN veteran is celebrating after being chosen to represent his country in an international sporting event for injured forces personnel.

Gaz Golightly, 32, from Hart Station, has been named as a member of the British Armed Forces wheelchair basketball team in next month’s Invictus Games, in London.

Gaz Golightly

Gaz Golightly

The four-day event, involving more than 400 sick, injured and wounded servicemen and women from 14 nations, is backed by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, the Ministry of Defence and Help for Heroes.

For Gaz, involvement in sport has been life-changing.

He lost a leg and suffered life-changing injuries in a hit-and-run car accident very early on in his Army career as a vehicle specialist in the Royal Logistic Corps.

As a result, he became a shadow of his former self, lacking in confidence and reluctant to engage in conversation with anyone outside his close family circle.

It wasn’t until 10 years later, when he was persuaded to attend a wheelchair basketball session, that life began to improve for Gaz and his wife Denise. Gaz, dad to baby Jason, Clarissa, four, and Brianna, two, credits a recent Help for Heroes-funded trip to Texas, to take part in a Wheelchair Basketball Skills and Competition Camp alongside fellow sportsmen from the US Air Force, as giving him the experience required to make it into the GB team.

Recently, a Newcastle Eagles basketball coach invited Gaz, who gets support from the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in Catterick, to train.

“I had been doing nothing at home. I was quite outgoing before the accident and I didn’t realise how withdrawn I had become,” said Gaz, who trains in a wheelchair funded by Help for Heroes.

“Sport has opened a lot of doors for me and really boosted my confidence.”

Wife Denise, a trainee accountant, added that family life has also improved.

She said: “We are all really proud of him and can’t wait to see him represent his country again – this time through sport.”

Gaz will be competing in the Olympic Park’s Copper Box on September 13.