Veteran fears he may miss out on wheelchair basketball opportunity in Texas because of Passport backlog (From The Northern Echo)
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Veteran fears he may miss out on wheelchair basketball opportunity in Texas because of Passport backlog
7:09am Saturday 14th June 2014 in News
PASSPORT FEARS: Former soldier Gaz Golightly and his wife Denise are pictured with their daughters Brianna (l) and Clarissa in their home in Hartlepool.
A DELAYED passport could deny a wounded veteran the chance of a lifetime to jet off to the US and train with a wheelchair basketball team – and because he has never owned a passport it could take even longer to process.
Gaz Golightly, 32, was just last week given the opportunity to go to Texas on July 4 to take part in training and competitions with an American wheelchair basketball team – something that could help in his goal to be selected to be part of the Invictus Games in London this September.
Invictus Games is a Paralympic-style international event for wounded and injured soldiers and veterans.
But advice from the Passport Office is that it can take more than six weeks for a first-time passport, and applicants must also attend an interview and bring documentation to prove they are a British citizen.
But he only has until Monday to confirm his place on the trip with his passport details.
Mr Golightly, who lives in Hartlepool with wife Denise and daughters Brianna, two, and Clarissa, four, lost a leg in 2002 when he was driving back to his barracks in Surrey and was forced to swerve to avoid a car that cut in front of him.
His car rolled along a fence and the posts pierced the bottom of his car, his right leg and shattered his pelvis.
He managed to lift himself off the wooden post he was impaled on and crawl out of the car before it exploded.
His right leg had to be amputated above the knee and he lost the use of his lower left leg because of nerve damage.
He said: “I started getting support from Help for Heroes recovery centre Phoenix House in Catterick Garrison after I discovered wheelchair basketball.
“The centre has really helped me get back on track and helped fund my wheelchair.
“It is really frustrating that I could miss out on going to Texas because of the passport – I was never actually deployed when I was a soldier so I have just never got round to applying for one, and this opportunity came up so suddenly I haven’t had time to prepare.”
Mrs Golightly, who is expecting the couple's third child next week, said: “I have seen how wheelchair basketball and staff at Phoenix House have brought Gaz out of himself so it will be devastating if he is not able to go.”
The couple have made a plea to Durham Passport Office for his case can be fast-tracked.
To donate to the Northern Echo's £100,000 appeal for a performing arts centre at Phoenix House visit www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/campaigns/helpforheroes/donate.
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