Tuesday 23 August 2011, 12:11
On completing a ski race I arrived back at the mountain lodge to publish the results on my blog and noticed an email from a friend, which was entitled "North Pole". My heartbeat raised and I became immediately excited.
For the first time since my injury I knew without hesitation that this was a challenge I wanted in on, and was prepared to do whatever it took and make any sacrifice to be a part of it.
While moving forward I was shot through the upper chest, shortly followed by a bullet in the foot.
The impact threw me to the ground and I immediately realised that the bullet had severed the artery supplying blood to my right arm and severed the nerves, rendering the arm paralysed.
I'd always looked for challenges, which is why I commissioned into the Paras, and enjoyed working under pressure in the austere conditions of the desert. I wanted to see if I could do this in the Arctic.
On returning from racing, I was interviewed in London alongside dozens of other hopefuls and invited to attend a selection weekend in the Arctic Circle that May.
I'd never seen a pulk or Nordic skis so it was all rather strange.
The selection process involved pulling a pulk over undulating terrain for two days, and camping out overnight in a tent with my new teammate Guy, who'd lost a leg in Afghanistan.
I hit it off with Guy "Maximus" Disney and the rest of the team immediately, and while the selection was challenging, I enjoyed every minute of this barren environment and the other team members.
On completion of the selection weekend I was invited to begin training as part of the team.
I was still undergoing the occasional operation on my injuries and thought that the training would help me maintain drive and a good standard of physical fitness.
Should I make it to the Pole it would not only be an achievement, but to me it would signify overcoming the injuries I'd sustained in battle.
Captain Martin Hewitt walking with his team: Left to right - Simon Daglish, Prince Harry, Inge Solheim (behind), Capt Martin Hewitt, Pte Jaco Van Gass, Sgt Steve Young, Henry Cookson, Capt Guy Disney, and Ed Parker.
I've had to adapt everything since my injury - from learning to write and type with one hand (my non-dominant hand), to searching for a new career.
I'd found the greatest physical challenges to date were regaining independence in independent living with one arm.
If I could achieve that in the most inhospitable environment on the planet, it would signify overcoming the additional challenges my disability have presented me.
While I'd faced mental challenges coming to terms with the loss of my prized career, I felt that I'd maintained a strong mental robustness too, post-injury, and thought this would be a great test of that.
As the training progressed, and more people became aware of the expedition, I was getting messages from other injured colleagues stating that what we were doing was providing them with motivation to get their own lives back on track.
This was something I never anticipated at first and it had a huge impact on me. I now felt that I had a professional duty as a serving officer to ensure success in order to provide an example to others.
It was this - and the desire to achieve success - that drove me on in training.
I just had to convince my poor parents, who'd hoped I'd calm down a little post-injury, that ski racing downhill for the country and walking to the North Pole were perfectly safe. Erm...
Throughout the expedition we worked to each other's strengths and supported each other with our injuries. This is something we found came naturally with a military background.
While there were long periods in our own thoughts walking, walking, and a little more damn walking, we'd push each other on with jokes, banter and taking the piss.
I've always found that soldiers have a slightly dark, even warped, sense of humour and that made the expedition significantly more bearable than it could have been.
On the ice I found that I was back to my old self, as this was the first time post-injury that I was part of a close team, which the expedition has highlighted I'd missed enormously.
Harry's Arctic Heroes will show the journey in more depth than I can go into here but I'll culminate by staying that we succeeded due to drive, determination, team work and a great support structure - along with a little blessing from lady luck.
Captain Martin Hewitt is a participant in Harry's Arctic Heroes.
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Monday 22 August 2011, 14:43
Thursday 25 August 2011, 12:12