The support changed my life. I went from a very dark place to having a new career, a wife and a great house in less than two and a half years.

James Cumming

“The military was everything I thought it would be: best friends, the greatest challenge, it’s a way of life. But then I got injured and lost the job that was the only thing I’d wanted to do. It was crushing.”

A former Captain with the Royal Regiment of Scotland, James Cumming joined the Army in 2005 after becoming fascinated with the Armed Forces from the age of 10:“I toured Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2010 and also did a short tour in Bosnia. They were interesting times but it’s what you train for and what you do.”

Hoping to further progress in his career, James volunteered for Special Forces Selection.  Out on a march during test week, an accident would ultimately end his career. “The weather was brutal and in a whiteout I stepped off the edge of a cliff. I fell 12 feet, landed on my head and neck and temporarily paralysed my left arm.”

James was eventually diagnosed with a prolapsed disc and cracked vertebrae, as well as nerve damage. Surgery resulted in the disc being removed. Unfortunately, his vertebrae failed to fuse correctly and the nerve damage didn’t improve. James was left with severely limited power in his arm, meaning even basic military tasks like putting on a rucksack were all but impossible.

It meant his time in the Armed Forces was over. Waiting for the inevitable medical discharge, James struggled with the coming transition and what he would do for a second career: “Suddenly I was left with what I perceived as not a lot and a bleak future. My mental health suffered as a result. I was in denial about the future and having to adapt.

Later moved to a Personal Recovery Unit, James’ Personal Recovery Officer recognised the need for him to get out of the house and be active again in order to kick-start his recovery. Knowing about Help for Heroes and its use of sport in recovery, she encouraged James to get in touch.

James’ first activity with the Charity’s Sports Recovery Programme saw him fly to California to surf: “Sport started my connection with Help for Heroes. It got me accepting that my military career was coming to an end and I needed to work out what to do. I felt comfortable asking for support with my next step, which was finding my next career.”

With a strong skillset thanks to his time in the Army, James set about transferring these attributes over into the world of business. Through Help for Heroes’ Career Recovery programme, he attended various courses that enabled him to make the transition into his current role in financial services initially with Barclays and now with a larger international bank: “Going on those courses enhanced my skillset and gave me confidence to speak and work in that environment. I genuinely don’t think I’d be where I am now without Help for Heroes.

“The support changed my life. I went from a very dark place to having a new career, a wife and a great house in less than two and a half years.”

James has since become a Help for Heroes Ambassador speaking on behalf of the Charity and highlighting the work it does. He also hopes to raise awareness of the ongoing need for support for wounded Service Personnel like himself: “Some of the studies that are coming out from the likes of King’s College London about the numbers who need support are quite scary. Those are just minimum numbers, but they’re huge. Continuing support is critical, not just for physical injuries but mental ones too.”

With his new career, James believes he’s finally able to get closure after the accident that ended his time in the Armed Forces. With the support from Help for Heroes playing an integral part in this, he hopes to continue to go from strength to strength: “I want to keep supporting the Charity as an ambassador and signpost other people to getting support. I’ve made a successful start to a second career thanks to Help for Heroes and now I want to take that as far as I can.”