‘Finding a world of support’: two veterans and longtime friends, passionate about mental health, cycling Normandy for military charity

Andrew Green and Mike Eytle served 16 years together in the British Army. Along with others, they will be taking part in the D-Day Ride for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

The three-day challenge commencing on June 6, the 80th anniversary of the Allies storming occupied Europe, will see dozens of SSAFA supporters cycling up to 80 miles per day along the beaches, battlefields, fortifications, and memorials in Normandy, France.

Andy and Mike currently live in South Yorkshire and Berkshire, respectively. They served together on tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and both left the Army about 10 years ago. During and after their military service they both struggled with their mental health, and the attitudes around these topics, especially in the military, were much different then.

When asked about mental health and the military, Andy said:

“Like others, my mental health has gone up and down over the years, particularly during prolonged periods of high workload, during deployment, and other life stressors.

“I’ve been very lucky to have been surrounded by people who have been very supportive and the first time I was unwell, they were able to spot the signs I was oblivious to. I’ll always be grateful for their support.”

On the same question Mike said:

“I was going through a bad patch, and I didn’t know what to do. I reached out to Andy, who told me that he had gone through something similar a couple of years back. He even recommended me the same counsellor he had seen, which helped me tremendously.

“It can be hard to accept that you’ve reached your limit and that you need help. But once you open up, you’ll find a world of support you didn’t know existed.”

Upon leaving the military Andy moved into project management for a construction company based in Sheffield, while Mike builds data centres for Microsoft around Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. They are both passionate about giving back to the military and spreading awareness about mental health and options that are available to serving personnel and veterans, so they never have to battle alone.

Andy and Mike will be part of a team of five friends taking part in the D-Day Ride, joining two other veterans and one civilian who was keen to join. Andy has plenty of cycling experience, regularly doing so in his spare time, but Mike has none whatsoever, a fact he is only slightly worried about.

When asked about the upcoming D-Day Cycle, Mike said:

“I’m feeling a bit nervous, but I thought this was a great opportunity to support something I believe in, and with it being the 80th anniversary of D-Day makes it even more significant. I champion veteran accessibility to the tech and engineering sectors in my company, and SSAFA does great work.”

“I reckon that as long as I make it to the end in one piece, it’ll be a great three days!”

You can donate to their fundraising page here: https://ssafa.enthuse.com/pf/andy-green.

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