A disabled TV presenter ‘burst into tears’ when he found out the pilot flying him to Japan to host the Paralympics coverage was the same one who brought him home when he was wounded as a Royal Marine commando.
JJ Chalmers was on patrol in Afghanistan in 2011 when he was badly injured, but has gone on to appear at the Invictus Games and have a successful TV career.
He knew nothing about the flight after the incident in Helmand Province in 2011 but became ‘overwhelmed by emotion’ when a member of cabin crew told him that the pilot had been at the controls for that journey – and wanted to have a word with him after take off.
JJ told BBC Radio 5 Live: ‘She (the cabin crew member) said “Our pilot actually flew you back from Afghanistan, flew you back into the UK, when you were injured 10 years ago, and he’s noticed that, and he would like you to come this way.
‘”He’s going to take the plane off, and then he’s going to come and have a word with you.”
‘And I burst into tears – that was my reaction.
JJ, who went on to appear on Strictly Come Dancing last year, suffered head and facial injuries, lost two fingers and sustained serious damage to his elbow when he was caught up in an explosion.
He was subsequently flown out of Afghanistan in an induced coma, so knew nothing about his journey or the man who piloted the plane.
When the now Channel 4 presenter stepped on to his flight to travel to Tokyo as part of his new role, he found out that David Ellis was the man who had helped rescued him.
JJ said he was ‘overwhelmed by emotion’ as he waited to meet Mr Ellis, who had Googled his name after recognising it on the passenger list and confirmed the connection between them by consulting his RAF flight logs.
‘He kept coming out throughout the flight and we were able to just talk like two veterans, and it was really nice to pass the time talking to someone that had a familiar background to what I did,’ JJ said.
‘But I really made sure that, when I got off the plane, I was like “Cut the nonsense – it’s been really nice to talk to you as another human being, but I owe you something that I’ll never be able to repay to you. I’m unbelievably grateful for what you did to me.”
‘And in fairness his response was just perfect; it was “We all had a job to do – that’s what you did, that’s what I did, that’s what we all did”.’
JJ won a cycling gold medal at the Invictus Games in 2014, and has subsequently hosted Olympic and Paralympic coverage and featured as a reporter on The One Show.
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