Jel Bearder served in the Royal Regiment of Artillery in 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery but struggled to find a job when he left the forces.
Jel served in the Army for five years serving in the UK, Germany, Cyprus and Canada. He always loved sport and represented his regiment at football, rugby, tennis, cricket, athletics (junior army discus champion 1990) and competed at swimming (butterfly) within his unit.
When he left the Army he missed the comradeship that he found from his fellow soldiers.
“I came out into civvy street and didn't know where to turn,” Jel says.
“I did building jobs but jobs I wasn't happy with. Just getting by kind of stuff; building jobs, demolition, horrible boring stuff unless you really like it. And I didn't.”
“And then I became a full-time carer for my wife.”
When his relationship broke down in 2008 and he left the family home and his two boys behind, Jel became quite low. He realised he needed a new career and, as sport and competing had been such a big part of his life, a friend suggested Be Military Fit (BMF).
On learning more about them, Jel became very excited but found he would need to complete an NVQ level one course before he could be considered as a BMF trainer. Not in regular work and homeless at the time, the course fees were beyond his reach.
I was sofa surfing, so you could say I was a homeless as I didn't have my own property or somewhere to live.
“A local charity in Enfield basically said you have no fixed abode. We can't help you,” he explains.
Jel knew of the Legion through his ex-wife's grandfather who had been a branch chairman and he had played football for the branch.
Having made contact, Jel was put in touch with someone who could help.
“He literally came around the next day to see me, did an interview, filled forms, sent the paperwork off,” Jel says.
“Two and a half weeks later I was told ‘yes we'll pay for your course and we'll pay for your accommodation and we'll pay for your food down there and transport’.”
The Legion covered the cost of both the level one and level two NVQ qualifications Jel needed to become an instructor.
“Eleven years later I'm still doing it and loving it,” Jel says.
“I'm the lead instructor for our region. I've done more classes than pretty much anyone in the country barring two other people that have been with the company about seven or eight years longer and I've done about six thousand classes.”
“I can't thank the Legion enough for the support they gave me at the start.”