Mary Wilson, former army nurse and para-badminton player

WAR is a terrible thing. I found myself in some difficult situations but that’s what I trained for. At night, helicopters would fly past and if their rotors continued, it meant the soldiers onboard were alive. Everybody would wake up and listen for this – if they stopped for only two seconds, it meant they were dead.

I had trained as a psychiatric nurse and when my marriage fell apart it made me realise it was time to do what I wanted to do, which was join the army.

I joined the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps aged 29. I was taught how to escape from a minefield, handle weapons, shoot live fire, and distinguish between a friendly helicopter and an enemy helicopter. Although I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004 during my training, I didn't let it stop me.

It was winter when I arrived in Afghanistan in 2008, every night was austere as temperatures reached minus 10. There was no contact with the outside world. It’s only possible to go for three months which is more than enough.

There was no permanent block when I arrived so there was 10 of us living in each tent. I was on call 24/7 working closely with the doctors and A&E staff at Camp Bastion, we dealt with everything that went on. It challenged me, but I made friends for life.

One night a local driver in the area suddenly drove towards me with his truck and hit me and I had to have an operation. I woke up in the ward and was shocked to see a Taliban fighter in the bed next to me. It was difficult knowing that he could have killed one of my friends.

I was discharged from the army in 2012 and found myself in a very dark place. I wasn’t sure where my life was going and my illness could have made me housebound.

I decided I would get involved with sports. Because of the MS, I signed up for the Invictus Games 2014. I won two bronze medals for shot put and discus, a gold and three bronzes in swimming. Each sport had a captain and to my disbelief, I was selected as the only female captain for field athletics and met Prince Harry.

I enrolled in a local badminton club. Soon I was representing Scotland. However, I struggled to find sponsorship for competing until I contacted my local butcher who agreed to produce a sausage called, “Mary’s Smashers” to help.

This year is filled with touring; there’s a ranking system and if I can make the top six in the world, I’ll qualify for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

I believe in pushing myself and live every day by: “What have I done today to make myself proud?”


Thanks to sponsors Crombies Butchers of Edinburgh and Path to Success