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Prince Harry vows to dedicate life to helping former soldiers

Published 30/09/2015

Prince Harry joins Walking with the Wounded's Walk of Britain team during their trek to Ludlow in Shrophire
Prince Harry joins Walking with the Wounded's Walk of Britain team during their trek to Ludlow in Shrophire
The six-strong team is walking the length of Britain over 72 days
Prince Harry said more needs to be done to tackle the stigma associated with mental health

Prince Harry has pledged to dedicate the rest of his life to helping ex-soldiers and service personnel.

Joining injured battle veterans trekking the length of Britain on their own personal roads to recovery, he also said "we need to do more" on mental health.

Asked if he missed the Army, he said: "I miss parts of it. That's another reason why I will be involved with these guys for the rest of my life."

In a wide ranging interview with ITV News, he also revealed he has no plans to settle down just yet, saying he has "a lot of things to get done before settling down".

Harry is patron of the Walking with the Wounded (WWTW) Walk of Britain, and was lending his support to a six-strong team of former soldiers and marines who have taken on the arduous 1,000-mile journey.

He has previously spoken of the "very difficult" transition former service personnel need to make into civilian life, particularly for those who carry the often unseen scars and burdens of war.

Asked whether there is enough support for former soldiers coping with mental illness, he replied: "Of course we need to do more, not just with these guys, but with everybody.

"Mental health is a sensitive subject, I think, among a lot of people, but it doesn't need to be.

"I think we need to talk about it more, get rid of the stigma, and what better people to bring that to the forefront than these guys because they are mentally strong and are willing to talk about it."

He was referring to the five men and one woman, among them two ex-US Marines, who all battling life-long grievous injuries, both physical and mental.

Among them are three victims of IED blasts in Afghanistan, amputees, and two who suffered traumatic brain injuries - another lost an eye.

When announcing the trek back in March, Harry said its purpose is in part to raise awareness and allow the public "to see first-hand the determination and resolve of those who have served, and in particular those who have been injured or suffer hidden wounds".

He added: "They will see that whatever their circumstances, these men and women are looking to the future."

Harry joined the team for a 17-mile leg which took them through picturesque Shropshire near Ludlow, and meant they have now passed the half-way mark of their challenge.

Among them is Alec Robotham, a 29-year-old former Royal Marine who was left with arm and leg injuries when he was blown up by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2010.

He welcomed Harry's presence on the walk, and said the pair had enjoyed "every-day chat" about military life.

He added: "It's great to have him here and I'm sure if he could, he'd do every day."

American Andrew Bement, 32, suffers post-traumatic stress disorder after serving two tours in Iraq in the space of 18 months and a further tour in the Afghan badlands with the United State Marine Corps.

He said the walk had been a "healing" experience, and of the Prince he added: "He's very passionate about what we're doing and what he does."

Harry was not the only familiar face on the trek as American football legend and former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino joined walkers, along with other NFL players.

Marino, in the UK as the Dolphins are due to play at Wembley and the American NFL are one of the trek's sponsors, praised the courage of the "true heroes" .

He said: "They're very much true heroes today, walking across Britain and what they're doing is pretty amazing.

"I'm glad to be part of it."

Harry's decision to join the walkers had been a tightly-kept secret. The surprised and delighted children of St Lawrence's Primary School in nearby Church Stretton ended up "hitting hands" with the Prince, as he flew in to join this leg of the journey.

As the group grabbed a quick lunch at the 13th-century Stokesay Castle - no stranger to soldiers outside its walls - awe-struck members of the public came to see what the fuss was about.

Jess Blundell, a health visitor on her lunch break, asked the Prince for a selfie - to which he replied, only if she put a "tenner" in the charity bucket.

The 37-year-old duly obliged, concluding he was "a lovely guy".

On the final part of their day-long journey, they were greeted by cheering crowds, who were delighted when the smiling, bearded Prince waved back.

The trek started in August in the north of Scotland and is set to take 72 days in all, finishing at Buckingham Palace on November 1.

Prince Harry has supported WWTW since the charity was formed, taking part in their trek to the North Pole in 2011 and South Pole in 2013. He was also patron of the their Everest Expedition in 2012.

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