AN ex-squaddie left traumatised by the effects of conflict is getting ready to cycle 2,200 miles to help people living in a war zone.
Lee Ryder served in 1st Battalion the Light Infantry for six years from 1986 and was on tour in Northern Ireland for two and a half years.
During his time on tour, he lost 11 comrades and after suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) upon leaving the Army, is now unable to work.
But intrepid Lee, 41, is about to embark on a mammoth fundraising cycle ride to the Middle East to help those living in war-torn Gaza.
A team of people from across the UK, including volunteer nurses, first aiders, personal trainers, drivers and caterers, will start their four-week challenge in April for the Ride for Gaza team.
They will be backed by a team of drivers who will follow the route, providing assistance and logistics.
Lee, who lives in the Murray Street area of town, said: "I have fought for things and have seen what war is really like.
"If people knew how it really is, they would not go around causing them.
"I am volunteering to do this because I want to make a difference.
"People are so hung-up on finances and making money and they forget we are all people.
"I'm doing this for peace and not just in our own country. It's about coming together and creating peace across the world."
Lee faces a daily battle with PTSD and his inability to work means he has to survive on benefits.
He added: "I have found it hard to fit in since I left the Army.
"No-one understands what it is like to be a soldier, then come back home.
"War doesn't make sense to me. It costs us a fortune paying for all these bullets and bombs and when the lads come home you see soldiers in prison, on tablets and in hospital.
"I'm having to survive on benefits.
"I have lost friends and it does affect you.
"The worst time in any war tour is the last month because you are just wanting to get home, but you're expecting everything to blow up in your face.
"The stresses and strains are unbelievable.
"I've been left with PTSD. I haven't worked since I left the Army because my tolerance levels are non-existent."
Lee says cycling has been one of his releases as it lets him get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life as he pedals up and down hills in the countryside.
But his latest ride is bigger than any hill he has yet faced as he aims to not only cycle across Europe and into another continent, but into a hostile and impoverished area.
Lee said: "The Palestine area is basically under siege by Israel and the people living there are forgotten about.
"I think if you are going to bring peace to the world it has to start in Palestine. That is the centre of the problem.
"We will leave everything we take with us there, including the vans and bikes we are travelling with, to help those caught up in it all.
"Hopefully by raising money and awareness we can help make a difference."
Visit www.ridetogaza.com to find out more about Lee's adventure and to support the group.
Donations can also be made by signing a form on the bar in The Cosmopolitan, in Durham Street, Hartlepool.