Former Corporal Kelly Ganfield always knew she wanted to serve in the British Army.
Kelly’s love of football naturally led to the forces and her athletic talent shone through in the military where she took every opportunity to stay as fit and active as she could.
As a tomboy Kelly found she naturally got on better with the men she served alongside.
Yet as a gay women serving at a time when homosexuality was less well accepted she mostly kept her sexuality a secret.
Ultimately though Kelly loved her time in the British Army because she felt she could be part of something larger than herself and this made her feel like she was achieving great things.
Everything changed one day when she stared to feel the sickest she had ever been in her life.
She didn’t realise it at the time but Kelly had developed the blood condition antiphosphilipid syndrome (APS).
The APS caused two strokes which led to her spending multiple years going from hospital to hospital not knowing whether she had a future in the British Army.
She also lost the majority of her eyesight.
Her illness led to immense feeling of guilt and shame—at the time many of those she once served alongside were fighting in Iraq.
The APS had a devastating impact on her mental health and Kelly considered taking her own life.
Yet through sport rehabilitation Kelly found opportunity.
She fell in love with her football coach and together they are raising a child.
The 37-year-old is now living in Trowbridge with her partner who is behind her every step of the way.
Kelly, who is undertaking her second Invictus journey, has evolved into living with sight loss and hopes to show her daughter Bethany, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, that disability is no barrier to achieving incredible things.
Phillip ‘Barney’ Gillespie was just 16-years-old when he joined The Royal Irish Regiment in 2004.
Barney grew up in Ballymena, Northern Ireland.
His mum, who died when he was very young, served as a 'Greenfinch' (a female Northern Irish soldier) and inspired him to join up.
He deployed on three tours of Afghanistan and got promoted to Corporal.
Whilst serving in Afghanistan Barney was attacked in the dramatic siege of Musa Qala—one of the most intense moments in the conflict.
The situation became so dire that they had to be escorted out by the Taliban.
Taliban insurgents surrounded the 88 men for 56 days.
The mixture of Paratroopers and the Royal Irish were outnumbered and under-equipped.
Barney’s military career was dramatically cut short four months into his third tour when he stepped on an I.E.D.
He lost his right leg as a result of the injuries he sustained that day.
His life would never be the same.
Like many others before him, Barney was evacuated to Camp Bastion where he had three operations.
He was flown back to Birmingham to receive treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital before he started his road to recovery at Headley Court.
Barney thrived in the military due to his competitive nature which played a key part in his rehabilitation.
Within just two weeks Barney was learning how to walk on a prosthetic leg at Headley.
Barney immediately took to sport as a fundamental part of his post-military life.
In 2013 he competed in the punishing Dakar Rally alongside other ex-forces.
He heads to the Invictus Games in Sydney to work alongside his friends in the injured community, determined to make his mark as a sportsman.
As a Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army who served for 29 years, the British Forces has played a defining role in Spencer Bull’s life.
Since 1988 Spencer has completed several tours of Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Kuwait.
Spencer always loved sport and lived an incredibly active life.
His family was the other crucial part of his life and he balanced raising children with his military career.
When he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005 he went into denial.
Spencer's condition deteriorated over the years and he took out his anger and frustration on the people he loved the most.
By 2011 Spencer was struggling to walk at all.
Simple everyday tasks like throwing a ball around with his children or cutting the grass brought up feelings of anguish and distress.
By the end of 2017 Spencer was medically discharged from the Army.
Sport was a lifeline to Spencer and he took part in the Warrior Games in Chicago the same year he was discharged.
He now credits sport with making a positive effect on his life, allowing him to manage his condition and make his children proud.
When he’s not competing Spencer spends his time volunteering for various charities and with his family.
His natural leadership skills have made him the perfect fit to undertake the role of joint Vice-Captain of this year’s UK Invictus team.
Spencer heads to Sydney with the aim of doing his family proud, proving his resilience and encouraging his teammates to be the best they can be.
Listen to Barney, Kelly and Spencer's stories in full by downloading or streaming 'I Am Invictus' the sequel to the award-winning feature-length radio documentary below.
These powerful stories match cutting-edge sound design with uplifting vignettes examining the heroic acts and struggles of everyday veterans.
Michelle joined the RAF in 1997 and threw herself into military life from day one.
The most important thing in the world to her though is her daughter Maya.
She jokes that her own mum told her she’d only last 20 minutes in the RAF but she actually managed 20 years.
Balancing life in the forces as an ICT Technician with raising a young child was incredibly difficult.
The former Sergeant remembers having to say goodbye to Maya in her crib and then go months without seeing her again.
Michelle and her husband managed but then Michelle contracted a virus overseas.
When she returned to the UK Michelle was suffering from exhaustion, extreme dizziness and more than 100 unannounced collapses.
After several misdiagnoses and hospital admissions she was eventually diagnosed with the chronic condition, Postural Tachycardia Syndrome.
Now at home Michelle was reunited with her daughter but started to collapse more and more regularly.
In a twist of fate, it would be four-year-old Maya who would have to look after her mother when she fell ill cooking.
Maya phoned 999 for an ambulance, letting the emergency services know about her mum's condition and where they lived.
Michelle’s daughter arguably saved her own life as well as her mother’s because the kitchen had caught fire by the time the emergency services came.
Maya's resilience and bravery was rewarded by getting to meet Prince Harry.
Michelle goes to this year’s Invictus Games as joint Vice-Captain and wants to inspire her team as well as make her daughter proud.
Former Guardsman Dave Watson has always had a wicked sense of humour.
When Dave was blown up by an IED whilst on patrol in Afghanistan one of the first things he made sure of was that his ‘middle wicket’ was still there.
In 2010 Dave lost both legs and an arm.
Although initially he was recovering well, a problem with his prosthetics set him back and he was confined to using a wheelchair.
When he became a triple amputee, he was left unsure whether he could have children.
Dave was raised a Catholic but his faith had lapsed whilst he was serving.
He had always carried a military bible with him though as a sign of his past faith.
Yet light can shine through tragedy.
The profound changes he went through after being blown up made Dave a ‘better believer’ and reignited his faith.
This wasn’t the only radical change in his life while recovering, Dave fell in love with the nurse looking after him.
Dave’s wicked sense of military banter resonated with Becky whose father had also served in the forces.
It wasn’t long until Dave and Becky were married but the question of whether he could raise a family always loomed over him.
Dave learned over the phone that despite his injuries he was going to become a father.
Sydney will be Dave’s second Invictus Games, his aim this year is to spur on his teammates on with his military wit and to show his family how he's been blessed.
Music means everything to Poppy Pawsey.
Even from an early age Poppy knew she wanted to be a musician.
What she didn’t realise at the time is that music would lead her into the British Armed Forces.
Poppy's love of music saw her join the Royal Marines Band Service as a violinist, saxophonist and vocalist.
The forces ran in Poppy’s family as both her maternal grandparents served in the RAF during the Second World War.
As a Bandsman Poppy played The Royal Albert Hall, The Royal Wedding, and The Olympic Games.
Her career was cut short when Poppy developed a musculoskeletal illness.
She struggled to return to civilian life following her sudden and traumatic medical discharge from the Marines.
Not all scars are visible and Poppy knew something was wrong when she fell into a cycle of anger, pain and depression.
Small hurdles in life, like trips to the doctor or stepping in a puddle became Herculean tasks for Poppy and she couldn’t cope.
Despite this Poppy’s optimism and positive outlook on life kept her going and soon she had found other ways of expressing herself.
While training at the Forces Media Academy, Poppy worked on multiple radio documentaries and regularly broadcast uplifting messages about overcoming her battle with her mental health.
For the second time, Poppy takes her determination and tenacity to The Invictus Games and inspires those around her to carry on even through their darkest hours.
Former Lance Corporal Martin Tye's patrol vehicle was hit by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, causing him life-changing injuries.
He lost the ability to walk and felt immense isolation.
Afterwards, Martin suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and shut himself away from his family and loved ones.
Martin’s struggle with depression held him back and stopped him going out in public or being in big crowds.
Through his rehabilitation, Martin has gone on to become the world's strongest disabled man and competes in strongman competitions around the world.
He became the second man in the world to deadlift 500-kilograms.
Martin returns to the Invictus team this year ready to push his body to the limit, test his vigour and show the world what an athlete can do at the height of their physical fitness.