St Albans-born Invictus champion hoping to move back to Herts
- Credit: Archant
For Invictus gold-medallist Jordan Beecher, growing up in St Albans was a big influence on his life, throughout his career as a professional soldier and his time as one of the country’s premier Paralympic rowers.
Now he hopes to come back to Herts, to carry on his career of uniformed service in the police.
Originally from Torquay, Jordan’s family moved to St Albans when he was five, but he soon grew to love his new home.
The 28-year-old former lance corporal, who lost his left leg after being caught in an explosion in Afghanistan said of the city: “I loved it. It could not have been better.
“I had the Bluebell Woods out the back of Verulamium estate and the park, so I was always out on my bike.”
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He went to what is now Marlborough Science Academy, but admitted he was not a model pupil, instead preferring to play basketball.
“I played basketball loads at school, first for St Albans and then for the West Hertfordshire team.
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“Because of basketball and my paper rounds I was a lot fitter than I had to be when I joined the army.
“I actually broke two bikes in my first year so had to run my paper round after that!”
His love for Army Cadets provided another distraction from his work.
“I was in the cadets from 12 until 15 so we were always playing soldiers in the park.
“At the time we were doing what was called fieldcraft.
“Basically going out and playing soldiers, and with Verulamium Park there it was a great place to play soldiers.
“Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7pm to 10pm we would run around with face paint in two sections and go beat each other up.
“Weekends were boring because I wasn’t at cadets.”
When he was 16, Jordan took a bus to Luton and enlisted in the army.
It was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream for someone who had been drawing soldiers since he knew how to use a crayon.
His mother, Michelle Irving, recalled how except for a brief flirtation with signing up for the RAF, Jordan had wanted to join the army since he was four.
“He wanted to get into the cadets so he sat around in the park watching them.”
Jordan explained why he had been so committed to signing up: “The idea of being a cog for a larger purpose. I didn’t want to drift through life. I did work experience in an office once and can honestly say it was the worst experience of my existence.”
After infantry training at Catterick, Jordan went on his first tour in 2007, and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, becoming the very model of a career soldier.
In October 2012 he was caught by an improvised explosive device while on an operation, which cost him his left foot and part of one of an index finger.
“My first thought was ‘My girlfriend’s going to kill me’.
“I didn’t realise I’d lost my leg at first. It was only when they pulled me out and I saw my foot in the mud that I realised.
“I was angry and I was disappointed because I’d affected the operation.”
He says he did not have much trouble coming to terms with the loss, finding the biggest disappointment was not being a soldier rather than not having a leg.
He underwent months of surgery, losing another eight inches from the leg due to what doctors described as one of the worst trauma injuries they had ever seen.
Once he had finished surgery, he faced a crossroads: get fit enough to re-deploy, or leave the Army.
“I could have got fit again but if I got an infection and my leg swelled up, I didn’t want to put people in the position of having to choose between helping me or getting killed.”
Since leaving in 2015, he tried a number of different careers, including as an athlete, winning two golds in rowing at the Invictus Games.
He first attempted rowing as part of his rehabilitation, but has since gone on to win four gold medals at the Invictus Games.
Despite this though, he decided not to pursue a career as a full-time athlete, instead opting for smaller events, such as marathons and the cross-Atlantic event he is training for.
“Sport was great but it wasn’t a career like the army was. The end goal was what made me happy in rowing, not actually doing it.”
He is now volunteering for Blesma, a charity which provides talks to schoolchildren on adversity, and is applying to join Hertfordshire Police.
Asked what draws him to uniform service, after a lifetime of sporting achievement behind him, he gives a simple answer: “Service.”