The darkness below loomed as the aircraft doors opened like a hungry mouth ready to devour us.
I stood as a 17 year old young man, a boy really, weighing just 8 stone, carrying kit boasting to weigh even more than me. I was small in stature but strong, fit and ready to fight. I’d always wanted to be brave.
Red on…Green on…Go!
At a mere 600ft I jump out of the roaring aircraft into the pitch black below. Surrounded by my ‘muckers', the blokes I’ve trained with, suffered ‘P’ company with, served in Northern Ireland with, fought along side in war torn Iraq and invaded Afghanistan's Helmand Province. I’ve been to war, had my fair share of death and destruction… and I knew I was brave.
My name is John Bream and I am proud to say I am a former 3 Para lad winning the battalion it's first of many championships alongside becoming The Army's featherweight champion and boxed successfully representing The Combined Services.
So I can go to war. I can fight. But being brave doesn’t mean I have ‘no fear’. It’s what drives me!
Leaving the Para’s and becoming a civilian has brought me more anguish, fear and mental battles than I could have ever imagined. Life behind the trigger was a much easier place to understand and it felt safer. Civvy life has seen me lose some of my friends to suicide. I myself have clung on to the walls of darkness, battling for my will to live to be stronger than the ease of dying.
I fear ‘normality’. Anything which resembles working a 9-5 job and never pushing myself out of my comfort zone grips me with a suffocating sense of dread. I’ve tried to fit in to civvy street. I’ve worked as a site labourer and driven around in vans collecting scrap metal. I’ve also taken out a loan and re-trained as a tree surgeon, eventually growing my own business and appearing to the outside world like I was actually ‘making it’. But I wasn’t. I was clinging on with white fingertips ready to fall into the pits of depression if I kept up the act of ‘normality’.
I escaped and sought a new, more exciting life path and worked for one of the worlds top adventurers- Bear Grylls.
I was part of his safety team and I was fortunate enough to travel to different parts of the world with him and his film crew. I looked after many of his celebrity guests but I always get a laugh at being able to say I threw the Director of Flight Operations for NASA off a rappel in Joshua Tree!
I was never one for social media. I resisted for so long to keep myself to myself, hoping the world would stop moving so quickly. But I eventually relented and signed my soul over to Facebook. Much to my horror I found out one of my old muckers from 3 Para had taken his own life. He had lost his grip.
At the funeral I saw faces of lads I’d been to war with but hadn’t seen in years. They were like ghosts. Some of them just shells of their former selves. I wanted to give them back the feeling of life again, a bit of adventure cemented together by reuniting old mates.
Project RV was born. It supports Airborne forces and Marines by using outdoor adventurous training, (currently located in the splendid surroundings of waterfall country, Brecon) to reawaken the lads sense of adventure and spark some motivation. We have such a great laugh every RV that it almost feels like time has stood still for us men. That we are safe again, together, even for a moment.
The future of our service men and women, the memories of our fallen and preventing any more suicides by veterans is my driving force to step out once again from my comfort zone. I am training tirelessly in preparation for a world record attempt at jumping from a helicopter 200ft into water at Adrenalin Quarry near Plymouth at the end of May 2020.
Each time I go higher in my practice jumps I look down briefly and question if I am brave enough to go through with this? Why don’t I just settle for normality and get myself a 9-5?! But then I remember that young 17 year old in me. The 8st soldier that didn’t look like much to many people. The one that won boxing championships though, fought in war and battled through life on civvy street. Not winning is what scares me. Accepting defeat and being ‘normal’ is where my fear lies. I will have the world record for the highest jump into water next year. I want to raise awareness and help prevent veteran's taking their own lives by motivating them, showing we can achieve brilliance.
I will just have to be brave.