On March 11 2015 Jaco van Gass gave an inspirational lecture which he began by recalling the events of August 20th 2009. As a member of the British Armed Forces Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan he was directly hit by a Rocket Propelled Grenade and severely wounded.
Jaco spoke movingly of returning to consciousness in a ditch and trying to lift his rifle to the firing position two times before realising he had lost his left arm below the elbow. He applied an emergency tourniquet and awoke from a medically induced coma to find himself in hospital with a collapsed left lung, shrapnel wounds to his left side, punctured internal organs, blast wounds to the upper thigh, a broken tibia and a fractured knee.
Jaco spoke of the world being a very grey place at this time as he struggled to come to terms with his injuries and began to think about what he would do with his life. He set himself small goals and by succeeding at these he gradually set himself larger challenges. In 2011 he took part in Walking with the Wounded North Pole Challenge as part of a team of eight which included three other wounded servicemen. They successfully trekked unsupported to the North Pole and in the process they broke several world records. Jaco explained how the team had to rely on each other as the range of disabilities meant they all had areas in which they needed assistance.
In 2012 Jaco attempted to climb Mount Everest as part of a team of nine wounded servicemen including Martin Hewitt from the North Pole Challenge. Despite trying to reach the summit the attempt was eventually halted by the high threat of avalanche caused by the warmest ever temperatures being recorded on Mount Everest.
Jaco has gone on to be selected for the British Cycling Paralympic Academy and won double gold in the Time Trial and Circuit Race at the Invictus Games.