Overcoming Adversity: A Former Soldier’s Journey to the Invictus Games

Paul Brown
20.03.2023 Published: 20.03.23, Modified: 20.03.2023 09:03:14

David Jarvis served in the military for 21 years before his untimely discharge on medical grounds. An avid fitness enthusiast, David worked as a physical trainer for 14 years before being diagnosed with a knee condition that prevented him from doing any high impact training. This is when he took up cycling. What started as a casual exercise and a fuel-saving means to get to work, soon grew into a lifelong passion and eventually led to him being chosen to represent the UK in the Invictus Games, 2023.

The Invictus Games ‘use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for wounded, injured and sick Servicemen and women.’ This year the Invictus games will be held in Dusseldorf, Germany between 9 – 16 September.

David joined FDM in January 2022 and is currently working as a Scrum Master with a multinational airline holding company. We caught up with him to talk about the upcoming games and the near-fatal accident that changed the course of his career forever. 

Military background

David had an illustrious military career where he worked as a Staff Sergeant, Foreman of Signals. He admits that a lot of work went behind achieving this title. David also worked as a physical trainer before a medical diagnosis in 2014 found severe damage to his knees with the recommendation to stop all forms of high impact activities like running to avoid further deterioration.

Introduction to cycling 

The following year David started cycling, initially going a mile to and back from work. But his interest grew and two years later he signed up for his first race. This set the wheels in motion for what was to become a deep passion. In his own words he ‘got the bug’ and trained harder than ever. The result? He went back the next year and won the race he’d lost the year before. Things just started picking up from there.

However, an accident during one of the events left him seriously injured. He was knocked off his bicycle and sustained trauma to his ribs, shoulders, back and the right side of his body.

Charity work

Following his accident, David decided to shift his focus to charity instead of racing. Throughout 2020, he contributed to three different events including cycling 100 km per day throughout June totalling over 3,000km, as part of a wider team who collectively managed to raise £100K for the Royal Signals Charity.

Life after discharge

David recalls how his medical discharge came as a bit of a surprise given the shortage of Foreman of Signals in the service and the small window he had between his discharge and leaving his post. He shared how he took a break from training after leaving the military because it is a lifestyle change to go from the military to civvy street. ‘You’re used to living and working in the barracks and not just going to an office 9 to 5. So, when you leave that, it’s takes some getting used to.’

Finding FDM

During his discharge, David was placed with a primary recovery unit at Edinburgh that is tasked with providing support to people like him. They provide useful resources for service leavers including – opportunities to do courses and job-hunting support. It was whilst receiving this slew of information and presentations that David started doing his own research and came across FDM on Facebook. He reached out to Norman Yarwood, FDM Ex-Forces Regional Head, Scotland who invited him to go up to Glasgow. 

David recalls that he was hooked after listening to the Ex-Forces team speak about the programme and said it sounded similar to his job in the military. What he found particularly attractive was, ‘I can try different things, meet new people and have the potential to travel.’

Training and adjusting to civilian life

David says that he thoroughly enjoyed the training when he started with FDM. He admits that ‘the transition was difficult. Whilst I enjoyed being around the family more and not having to travel so much, there have been aspects I’ve missed, being around people in the office and the opportunities to get involved in a whole variety of different activities. There are other aspects that I’m still addressing but that is where the Invictus Games will help significantly.  Having been an active, competitive person all my life it’s given me another goal to aim at as I’ve been a bit lost over the last 18 months or so.’

‘It’s great to see David grabbing this chance to represent the country in a sporting discipline. He’s typical of the people who come to our FDM Ex – Forces programme. The skills they learn in the Military, such as project planning, leading teams, dealing with problems, working in fast-paced environments, and simply getting the job done are extremely valuable and transferable in the commercial world. We’ll be following David’s progress avidly and cheering him on to make a podium finish.’

Norman Yarwood, FDM Ex-Forces Regional Head, Scotland

Current role

The primary aim of David’s current team is making various cyber security improvements. His role is meeting with people, planning key events and discussing mitigations with the aim of enabling the team to get on with their work. 

He mentions some of the key skills and experience he’s been able to draw on from his role as an operations team leader in the military. His principal responsibilities had included managing risks and issues on behalf of the chain of command and coordinating the unit’s forecast of events, whatever they might be. This involved hosting daily and weekly meetings, engaging regularly with chain of command both from his own and external units. David acknowledges that ‘Whilst the applications I’m using have changed, the fundamental processes and responsibilities are very similar’.

If like David, you’re wondering about your next steps after leaving the services, check out the FDM Ex-Forces Programme. Explore job placement services, career counselling, and networking opportunities to help you find the right career path for you.  

ETA: Since publishing this blog, David had gone on to make us incredibly proud by winning Gold at the Men’s Cycling Time Trail at the Invictus Games! Well done David!