John Ross and the Chester Marathon

We interviewed John Ross before he had completed the Chester Marathon.  He raised a massive £377.00  Well done John Ross!  If you would like to donate please use this link:

Tell us about your military service

I joined the Army in January 1996, and within six months I was deployed to Bosnia. It was a Christmas tour and I remember going up the side of a mountain to cut down a little tree to take back for the lads to decorate. I was just a young lad and it was an experience in many ways. I came home from that first tour and went on to exercises in Germany and Poland, followed by second tour to Northern Ireland in 1998 where I was part of the bomb disposal unit. I was there for the Good Friday agreement, and was at Market Place, with 321 EOD, when the bomb went off in Omagh. I was still pretty young then and saw all that destruction and death. But I had signed on the dotted line and knew what I had let myself in for. 

After that, my second tour in Bosnia was another eye opener. The actual place where I had been running up the side of a mountain to get that Christmas tree was all taped off.  I discovered that I had actually walked through an active minefield to get that Christmas tree … Someone must have been looking out for me.    

I did just under 3 years in Cyprus, where I got married, and after that I had short stints in Germany and Poland. I was in Kuwait for about a month on the border of Iraq, before we invaded, with 7th armoured brigade supporting  42 commando. I was in the desert for 7 months, after which I was posted to Cyprus for two and a half years, and after that was posted to Germany until I came out of the Army in 2005.

How did you get involved with Tom Harrison House?

I had become homeless and I was drifting from hostel to hostel, going through a really bad time. I had lost both my parents and I just couldn’t cope in the end. The drugs and alcohol took over my life. I heard about Tom Harrison House through Liverpool Veterans who signposted me there, and it was in 2019 that I started the programme. I fully participated in it but I really didn’t ‘get it’ at the time. Throughout the whole twelve weeks I thought I was going to be fixed, but I ended up going back out there in addiction again for eighteen months. I was fortunate enough that a couple of the staff from Tom Harrison House used to come into the veterans’ hostel that I was in, Speke House, once a month. I used to heckle them but deep down I knew where I needed to get to. The second time I came to the programme it was because Tom Harrison House reached out. So after a second time around I’ve not really looked back – it’s turned my life around.

How are you involved with Tom Harrison House?

Now I’m a graduate and volunteer at Tom Harrison House, and I’ve also completed the mentoring course which means I’m on hand to mentor any veterans who are waiting to come in to Tom Harrison House – we have phone contact with them, mentoring new clients until they’re ready to come into treatment. One of the residents that I mentored has just been speaking to me and he couldn’t thank me enough, he feels great and has just asked me to be at his graduation. 

It’s all about giving back. I also prepare the community breakfast for everyone at Tom Harrison House every Monday, I work at the THH allotment every Thursday where we grow our own fruit and veg, I tell my story and meet with visitors to the project, and I support clients in their early days and at the accommodation. Veterans who have been through the programme offering support to new clients means that they’ll open up because they trust you, because they know where I have come from. As a volunteer, there’s loads of variety.

Graduates also do guest speaker sessions on a Thursday evening. We present our stories to those in treatment with a message of strength and hope. Sharing our experiences, explaining how the recovery process works and trying to inspire confidence. Life is not a rehearsal – I always say to them when they come into treatment that this is just the start. It’s good for the graduates to connect with the guys and show them what’s on offer once they come out of treatment, because that’s where the work really begins.

Why did you decide to fundraise for Tom Harrison House?

I decided to fundraise for Tom Harrison House because it has turned my life around. This place has done so much for me that if I can give back in any way, I will do. I know that my recovery is down to me, but Tom Harrison House has given me the tools to be able to do what I’ve achieved, and continues to be my support network when I need it. Tom Harrison House helped change me from being homeless, living on the streets, having no regard for myself, having no regard for anyone else, I had lost my confidence. I had lost everything and now I have regained all that. I have regained my honour.  I am around like minded people. Tom Harrison House is a big family for me and that is why I will go to any lengths to help Tom Harrison House.

I can see other clients that come through, people like myself, and watch the growth in them.  What was lovely about the veteran who said to me. ‘I can’t thank you enough, I love you.’ A veteran who was broken and battered and I had faith in him. 

We are a charity, and I will go to any lengths to try and raise money because Tom Harrison House have done so, so much for me. I’ve done a sponsored triathlon and am planning to run the Chester marathon in October.

What would you say to someone who was considering fundraising for Tom Harrison House?  

Do it!  All jokes aside yes please, please do. Tom Harrison House is the only place like it in the country, it’s definitely a worthy cause. I raised £275 doing the triathlon will hopefully be adding to that soon. It feels great to give back to the place that helped me, and to see the good that it’s doing for others in the same situation.