Inspirational Iraq veteran praised by PM for Soldiering On Award

An ex-rifleman left severely disabled by a bomb blast in Iraq won a prestigious award last week in recognition for his charity fundraising.

Stephen Vause, 34, who lives at Royal Star & Garter in Surbiton was named winner of the Soldiering On Awards’ Inspiration category following a public vote on 28 October.

During the second lockdown Stephen undertook a 60-mile virtual London to Brighton cycle ride from his room at the Royal Star & Garter, raising more than £5,000 for Help for Heroes.

His achievement was praised by the Prime Minister, who said: “Stephen has shown remarkable courage in dealing with his injuries and great fortitude in raising money for armed forces charities.

“I take my metaphorical hat off to him for his latest fundraising exploit. I am full of admiration for him.”

With assistance from the staff at the Surbiton care home he completed the challenge on his adapted static bike in 6 weeks using a tablet to support communication, despite his injuries leaving him in a wheelchair.

Stephen cheered on by Royal Star & Garter staff as he finished the 60-mile challenge in February, photo by Royal Star & Garter
Stephen cheered on by Royal Star & Garter staff as he finished the 60-mile challenge in February. Photo by Royal Star & Garter

The Soldiering On Awards recognise the outstanding achievements of those who have served their country, and the diverse people and groups who work together in support of the Armed Forces community.

Following his accomplishment, Stephen said: “I’m stunned. I want to thank everyone who voted for me, but I also want to share this award with the other finalists. They all deserved to win.”

Stephen was nominated for the award by the Royal Star & Garter charity which provides compassionate care to veterans and their partners living with disabilities or dementia.

He has received specialist support and care from this charity since 2015.

Royal Star & Garter worked closely with Help for Heroes to fund a bespoke wheelchair and specialist gym equipment to support Stephen’s care.

He said: “Help for Heroes have helped me a great deal and I wanted to do something for them.”

Stephen was just 19 and serving with the 4th Battalion The Rifles when a mortar explosion near Basra left him fighting for his life on his first tour of Iraq in 2007.

Stephen was a Rifleman with 4th Battalion The Rifles. Photo by Stephen Vause

Carol Betteridge OBE, Head of Clinical & Medical Services at Help for Heroes, said: “Huge congratulations to Steve for winning such a highly fought category where all the finalists are absolute inspirations.

“Steve fights every day to manage his physical injuries so his fundraising challenge for us was a major undertaking, and he did it with such determination and humour.

“He shows us all the great things you can achieve when you put your mind to it. He is an absolute hero.”

Stephen’s virtual bike ride began on Christmas Eve 2020 and throughout his fundraising efforts he received recognition and support from celebrities including Lord Sugar and Jeremy Vine.

The final moments of his challenge were captured on film on 1 February and were shared by Lorraine Kelly on her ITV breakfast show.

Other finalists for this award were Margo Hetherington MBE, Mark Ormrod MBE and Martin Hewitt who will all be invited to celebrate their achievements at a black-tie gala reception dinner in central London in December.

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