Being medically discharged from the Navy was quite a shock to the system for Andrew Wilkinson.
The Glenfield resident spent 11 years in the Royal Australian Navy before a persistent back injury forced him to give up his career.
Consequently, he felt cut off from the military family he loved so much.
But the Sydney Invictus Games helped him find that camaraderie again.
Mr Wilkinson is using this Remembrance Day as a chance to reflect on the sacrifices of Australia’s service men and women and celebrate the same hard work that was evident during the games.
“It was a little surreal to be in the Invictus Games but it was a lot of fun,” he said. “It was so nice to be around such a big military family again – they showed a lot of hard work and determination.”
He competed in cycling and swimming events and earned four gold medals and three silver medals. He said it was great to prove that he could still compete despite his injuries. “I used to be a professional triathlete before my medical discharge,” the former Western Australian resident said. “Now I’ve got foot drop [weakness of the muscles] in my left foot and problems with my muscles, including atrophy, in my leg up the left side.
“I also had bulged discs which squashed my sciatic nerve.
“I was grateful to be able to compete alongside other people with similar conditions in the Invictus Games.”
Mr Wilkinson said he valued having a connection with the military community, which he was fortunate to maintain through his wife, who serves in the Army.
Both of his grandfathers also served in the military.
“I was a tri-athlete before my medical discharge. Now I’ve got foot drop in my left foot and muscle problems. It was so nice to be with the big military family again at the Invictus Games.”
He recently joined the Ingleburn RSL sub-branch to work more closely with other local veterans. Last Friday he helped launch the RSL DefenceCare Red Poppy Appeal in Newcastle.
He said the 2018 Remembrance Day was a big deal as it commemorated 100 years since Armistice Day.
The Invictus Games is an international adaptive multi-sport event, created by Prince Harry, in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and their associated veterans take part in sports including wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and indoor rowing.
The first games was held in 2014.