On Tuesday, Former Royal Marine Ben McBean, 27, who lost his left arm and right leg in a landmine blast in Afghanistan in 2008, ran 31 miles through London to raise money for a U.K. veterans’ charity.
At the end of the grueling charity run — his running route created the shape of a giant poppy, in honour of the charity Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal — McBean was hugged and congratulated by a surprise supporter: Prince Harry.
“I’m shocked,” McBean told reporters. “I wasn’t expecting that.”
Harry had been waiting for McBean at the finish line with another veteran and long-time supporter for the Poppy Appeal: Simon Weston, who was badly burned in Afghanistan in 1982.
Harry and McBean became friends when the men flew home from Afghanistan on the same plane. Harry had completed his tour of duty, and McBean, whom Harry called “a true hero,” was being evacuated with near-fatal injuries. Doctors weren’t sure McBean would even survive the flight home.
After the run, McBean told reporters that it was painful completing the 31 miles on a prosthetic limb, but it was still “so rewarding.”
And while Harry’s appearance at the finish line was a complete surprise, McBean told reporters that the two friends quickly picked up where they left off.
“He said, ‘Well done’ and that I’d raised lots of awareness for a good cause,” McBean said.
“He told me to go have a bath and a well-deserved beer. It was just like picking up where we left off.”
Money raised by McBean’s run will help the Royal British Legion’s work to support former servicemen and women. The Vodafone Foundation vowed to match every pound donated to the cause up to £100,000.
“We’re hugely grateful to Ben McBean and Vodafone for their commitment to the Big Poppy Run and hope that Ben’s run will inspire many others to take part in this exciting challenge,” said Charles Byrne, the Royal British Legion’s director of fundraising.
“The money raised will provide vital support to serving and ex-service people, and their families, whether living with bereavement or disability, finding employment, or coping with financial stress — the same problems facing First World War veterans when they returned to the UK 100 years ago.”