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CD FOUNDATION | 'Fit Forces saved my life'

9 November 2023


CD FOUNDATION | 'Fit Forces saved my life'

9 November 2023

To say that Fit Forces saved the life of Baz Cooper feels like an understatement.

Club Doncaster Foundation’s well-being programme for ex-military personnel came into his life at a point when he had hit rock bottom.

At the lowest of low ebbs, he had attempted to take his own life and spiralled out of control afterwards.

But the timely intervention of a former colleague and Fit Forces member, helped Cooper onto a path to getting back on his feet.

And now the 45-year-old tells his inspirational story as an appeal to others - either for military veterans to speak out when struggling with their mental health, or for others to check in on such individuals, as well as praising the work of the Fit Forces programme.

Below, Cooper tells his story in his own words:

“From a young age, I was obsessed with the military and I was always going to sign up. And at 16, I did. It made me grow up very quickly, with plenty of character building.

“I joined a ready-made family, a brotherhood you can trust in the darkest of hours. This is tested time and time again when you’re deployed to many different parts of the world. Danger and threat didn’t matter because we were with that brotherhood.

“We’ve seen the most vile of acts that human beings can imagine and some of them still haunt me, and at times when I least expect it.

“I thought I was resilient but I found out when I was out of the military that wasn’t the case.

“In Covid, I lost everything - my business, my family and my life. Everything I lived for and worked for.

“I didn’t have that brotherhood any more and I couldn’t fight it alone so I decided to just give up. I attempted to take my own life - and I’ve beaten myself up at even failing to do that.

“I’d lost the will to live and survive. I was isolated, embarrassed, weak, ashamed, powerless. I felt guilty that I was alive when so many of the brotherhood had given their lives and I was alive, failing and wasting chances.

“There was a day when I lost my mind completely, I was so afraid. It was nothing like anything I’d experienced in anything I’d seen.

“I crashed and burned like never before. I was taken away by the police and paramedics, put in a hospital room and left to, as they put it, ‘sleep it off.’

“I was looked at like something off the bottom of your shoe and I felt like it too. No one came and asked if I was okay, or what had led to it. All while I was wearing a military veteran top.

“I was discharged and then all alone again. I was given a bed for a few short hours. But in my darkest hours, two figures appeared. And these two were members of Fit Forces.

“One of them I’d served with 20 years earlier - one of the old brotherhood. They came in the night and rescued me from the brink of the end. Without them, I wouldn’t be here today.

“Fit Forces has provided me with a brotherhood again. A bond I missed and one I needed. A family I can trust, people to witness my achievements, to talk to, to hug and to cry with.

“It’s being part of something but ultimately being part of something worthwhile.

“Fit Forces helped me engage with life again, without any judgement. It introduced me to programmes like Fit Rovers, it gave me routine and structure. It put me in touch with people who got me a new home, a new life and a new job. And more importantly, a new me.

“Fit Forces saved my life.

“I always say when I tell people my story, I don’t want you to remember me or my story. I just want people to thank veterans from time to time when they see them and check in on them too.”

Cooper represented Fit Forces in the Remembrance service prior to Rovers' clash with Accrington Stanley on November 4, laying a wreath in the centre circle before speaking on the pitch at half time.

Fit Forces consists of a range of activities including walk and talk sessions, bike rides, football games, gym sessions and monthly events such as fishing and weekends away. There are also opportunities to socialise with other veterans through NAAFI breaks within Foundation Fitness.

To find out more, please contact

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