Sports Soldiers: They hold a triathlon to heal the wounds of war

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Wounded in the wars of the French army, they found an outlet for their emotional suffering in sport. Eight of them have taken on a crazy challenge with the Terre Fraternité association: a 24-hour triathlon.

On the terrace of a bar in a suburb of Toulouse. A motorbike drives by very close, misfiring. Brice puts his mint diabolo on the table: “The sound of an engine, a helicopter, my son’s firecrackers popping… It brings back memories. »

Brian is 39 years old. On August 18, 2008, he was reconnoitring with the International Assistance and Security Force in Afghanistan’s Uzbin Valley when nearly 150 Taliban took them in a pincer movement. The Uzbin ambush left immense trauma and 10 dead and 21 wounded in the ranks of the French army, including eight soldiers from the 8th RPIMa of Castres, to which Brice belonged. “I lost 10 brothers in arms, I picked them up again… It’s calming down. It’s war, it’s not clean, it’s not pretty, and you have to live with it. »

So Brice has been living with her for 14 years. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. After Afghanistan he is clinging to the army, but “it only takes a grain of sand. We see the dead in Mali, we get hit, then another, and after a while we don’t want to go to work anymore. And then the shrink says stop, we’ll stop. He has been on permanent leave since 2020. There are ups and downs, outbursts of anger that erupt for no reason, sleepless nights spent “on Twitter watching videos of dead bodies” as war broke out in Ukraine, and “the frustration of thinking we didn’t have anything use. But amidst the agony, islands of consolation can arise. Like many others, Brice reaches her through sport.

24 hour triathlon

This Friday, he will leave Fontainebleau with eight other wounded men and an officer from the Cabat (Army Wounded Aid Cell) for a 24-hour relay triathlon that will take them to the André Citroën quay in Paris.

In the team, the majority suffer from post-traumatic stress; others were physically injured during operations, like this 22-year-old soldier who became paraplegic after jumping on a mine in Mali. “The mental strength of these guys is impressive,” admires Brice, who says he “puts things into perspective” when he saw them: “Me, I have my two arms and my two legs; my paraplegic colleague, he swam 50m freestyle with only his arms and a buoy around his waist. That’s what impressed me, what made me take on this challenge. There are young people who are suffering, who went to Mali or elsewhere for France, they come back and their lives are shattered. But they keep smiling to give themselves the means to move forward, to have projects. »

For example, one of the team members will aim to compete in the 2024 or 2028 Olympic Games. Tony Estanguet, head of the Paris Olympics, was to be present on André Citroën’s platform for the arrival of the triathlon.

“When we are alone, we forget our injury”

Brice has learned: “You can build yourself up again through sport. He hesitated a little before enrolling in one of the many courses organized by the Cabat or the CNSD (National Defense Sports Center) in Fontainebleau. He “wondered what he was doing there the first time he got on the train. “But I did well, I know that.” »

Today he uses the term “family” to describe the ties that bind him to the other members of the group. “When we’re alone, we forget about our injury. Nobody talks about it, everyone goes to bed, even with a handicap, there is no taboo. We’re in our bubble and that’s really good for us. All sports are suitable, so no one is sidelined. »

The Paris Triathlon is his idea born after the cancellation of the Marine Corps Trials in the United States due to Covid. An event that brings together wounded soldiers from different countries. “I really got into it, it allowed me to think about something else, to evacuate. “For the first edition, which asks for others, he has already managed to unite around the project, from the judo champion godmother Margot Pinot, to Thibaud Flament from the Stade Toulousain, to the cyclist Rémi Cavagna.

An auction (particularly with stadium and TFC jerseys) was recently organized: all the funds will be donated to the Terre Fraternité association, which helps the wounded in the army. At the end of his vacation, Brice doesn’t know exactly what he’s going to do, but he’s sure: “It will be with the injured. »

To follow or support the triathlon: Instagram: 24h_de_triathlon_blesses_adt
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