A FORMER soldier is walking a total of 100km by Remembrance Day just months after undergoing open heart surgery.

Jason Horton-Smyth and his wife, Rachel, will walk the equivalent of the Western Front during the First World War to raise money for the Army Benevolent Fund.

The fund, now known as The Soldiers’ Charity, is the National charity of the British Army, providing financial and practical support to soldiers and veterans and their family.

In June, Jason underwent open heart surgery after falling unwell whilst out running.

The pain continued and eventually moved up into his jaw.

Rachel, from Earls Colne, said: “He put it down to being a little unfit but I kept pressuring him to get it checked out.

“Eventually he went to the GP and they said the vessels around his heart were damaged. They were surprised he hadn’t already had a heart attack.

After returning home to recover from his life-saving surgery, Jason’s health deteriorated with him losing four stone in a matter of weeks.

He was re-admitted to hospital in July.

Tests showed he had contracted E-coli and the wounds from his surgery were failing to heal.

Jason, 49, said: “Initially I felt as I would have expected after surgery, but then when the infection hit we didn’t know what it was and I was in excruciating pain.”

Jason said a nurse finally identified the problem and he was successfully treated.

Jason was discharged a few weeks ago and he decided to undertake a physical challenge whilst he was still in cardiac rehabilitation.

The Virtual Frontline Walk takes place in commemoration of those who fought in the first and second world wars and raises money to provide a lifeline to soldiers, veterans and their immediate families.

Jason said: “As soon as we saw the walk advertised we thought it would be a great way to get my fitness levels back up and raise money for a charity we are both passionate about.

“I know that the charity are always there for me and they have helped a lot of my friends in times of need.”


Jason was a soldier for 24 years, serving in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in several countries including Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Iraq.

Jason said: “I think the Army Benevolent Fund is an amazing charity which supports soldiers and their families with huge life changes through to small things which mean a lot to a group who are notorious at struggling to ask for help.

Jason added: “I have been desperate to get back out there and build my fitness back up again but I have to take it slow, while my heart heals.

“The problem must have been going on for a while before the symptoms showed because I didn’t feel myself for a while.

“Since the surgery I feel like a new person, I have so much more energy.

“The Wound Clinic at Basildon Cardiothoracic Centre and the Cardiac Rehabilitation Team at Colchester Hospital have been incredible and very supportive in helping me get to the point where this is possible so soon after my surgery.”

Jason will be accompanied on the challenge by Rachel who he met in the Army.

Rachel worked for the Ministry of Defence before leaving the Army to spend more time with Jason.

So far, Jason has walked 90km and plans to continuing waking until his wife has also finished the 100km, even if that means walking further than the 100km target.

Rachel said: “I think he is slightly ahead of me because I go after work but we are hoping to finish it together on Remembrance Day in Earls Colne and go to the service like we always do.

After leaving the Army, both Jason and Rachel were invited to the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace to recognise their service to the Armed Services.

Visit virtualfrontlinechallenge2019.everydayhero.com/uk/team-jr.