Inspiration Award Finalists 2023

An award to honour a person that has overcome significant challenges, injury or disability, and whose ongoing or past outstanding achievements are an inspiration to others within the Armed Forces community. The judging panel will select a shortlist of three entries to progress to the final public vote.

In partnership with NatWest.

The winner of this award category is decided by public vote. Scroll to the bottom of the page to cast your vote!

Vote closes 23:59 on 6th August 2023.

Introducing the Finalists...

Mark Harding

LCpl Mark Harding joined the Army aged 19 and served with the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment for 16 years, mostly as a sniper with a reconnaissance platoon. On 28 May 2010, Mark was leading a four-man patrol in Afghanistan to investigate an IED when his platoon came under Taliban fire and he was shot by a sniper. The bullet passed through his neck, severely injuring his spinal cord and causing paralysis from the neck down. Mark spent seven months in a specialist spinal unit and was told that he would never walk again.

Whilst at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court for over two years, Mark was in constant pain; his legs had to be stretched daily and he progressed from being in a wheelchair to a standing frame, to walking with a frame. After intensive hospital treatment, physiotherapy, and rehabilitation, Mark battled through his recovery from paralysis to mobility and achieved his goal of walking again, though still with difficulty using a stick. As well as making great personal progress, Mark has also given back to those in need, by undertaking challenges and events, raising thousands of pounds for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and other organisations devoted to the Army family and local communities.

Jacqui Swan-De La Maziere

Jacqui is a former Royal Navy radio operator, who joined the Armed Forces with the aspiration of a lifelong career and the opportunity for advancement. Her working-class family background in 1980s Liverpool motivated her to give the Navy her all. During training she won awards and was marked for progression. However, her dreams were shattered in 1992 when she was interrogated and dismissed for being gay. In the face of such adversity at a very tender age, and having lost her military family – as well as some of her own due to the rejection she faced – it would have been easy to give up. But Jacqui attempted to rebuild. She continued to offer service, buddying other veterans dismissed in the same way and establishing social groups for women in Manchester, Sheffield, and Leeds.

Jacqui went on to single-handedly organise petitions to parliament on the issue of restorative justice, writing newspaper articles and appearing on TV. She wrote to the late Queen, and with other veterans, took a legal test case to the European Court of Human Rights, to highlight the injustices they had endured. She also persuaded the Scottish Government to raise the issue in parliament.

Natasza Telfer

Natasza (Tash) joined the Army at 16 and served seven years in the Royal Horse Artillery. Her service was exemplary and so distinguished that she was put forward for commission – a rarity for a young soldier. Her promising career was sadly cut short after her last tour to Iraq. Following injury, she quickly underwent surgeries and intensive rehabilitation with the unfortunate outcome that she wasn’t going to recover.

She left in 2007 and lives with unimaginable pain in both legs, both hips and back, despite painkillers up to 100x more potent that morphine. She is unable to walk unaided, has a lot of bad falls, and weathers the demons of PTSD, severe anxiety and extreme exhaustion. Yet she manages to bring a bright light, infectious laugh, and element of fun to all she meets. While most in her position would not even make it out of bed, Natasza has worked hard full-time, studied in her spare time, raised thousands for charities, and most notably became an integral and crucial part of the Purple Warriors charity supporting impaired veterans. She has an unwavering determination to take the label ‘disabled’ and turn it into ‘enabled’ by using her experiences, challenges, and indestructible will to empower and inspire others.

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Inspiration Award

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