A distinguished military veteran from Welling has shared his incredible experience of crossing one of the world's largest deserts last month.

Dean Clay was part of a 17-man expeditionary team, comprised of British military veterans suffering with post-war conditions such as PTSD, which set out to traverse the Empty Quarter's massive sand dunes, with some reaching 400 feet high, in off-road vehicles.

Set-up by VetRun180, an organisation dedicated to providing adventures and experiences for injured veterans completely free of charge, Dean and his team trekked across the desert by following the path of the famous British explorer Wilfred Thesiger, who made the journey shortly after World War Two using camels.

Speaking on about his service, Dean told of how he left the military in 2011 after serving with the commandos for a number of years, however he initially struggled with having to transition back into civilian life.

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Dean Clay

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"I left because of all the stuff that was going on in the world at the time, but the transition was very hard.

"Then my brother committed suicide almost as soon as I came out of the military and that took a toll on my own mental health.

"I knew I needed to be around ex-forces lads again to feel better. I missed that brotherhood, that connection.

"On this expedition I got it back. All the lads which I met on the trip I had never seen in my life before, but I am sure we will definitely keep in contact for a very long time," said Dean.

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Dean told of the gruelling challenges the team faced while driving in the sweltering heat, including the hazard of driving in sand which led to the vehicle Dean was travelling in to flip over during their travels.

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"It was truly fantastic but at parts, truthfully it was a pain in the a**e at times.

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"The vehicles kept getting bogged down in the sand and it was really hot.

"A couple of the lads tried to sleep in hammocks at night but they would just wake up covered in sand," he joked.

However, despite the trials and tribulations, Dean and the team managed to cross the Empty Quarter in four days.

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Dean with fellow veterans taking a deserved break

Speaking on the success of their expedition, co-founder of VetRun180 Matt Abott said: "We covered 700 miles of desert faster than we expected.

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"These were some of the biggest dunes in the world and it is a testament to the resourcefulness of the veterans that we made it.

"We were frequently stuck and there was only us to get ourselves out. We were in the middle of the desert all alone."

Abbott had to overcome his own injuries to make the journey.

He lost part of his thigh and calf in Afghanistan when he was hit by a rocket, and has undergone 10 years of operations, the last one just a couple of months before the trip. Dean was fighting alongside him when he was injured.

"We organize expeditions like these to show other veterans, who are struggling with combat-related injuries, what they are capable of, " said Abbott.

Dean went on to say that he feels that veterans need to speak more on the issues they face when they come home, and that staying silent will only make things worse.

"Don’t suffer in silence. Get in touch with VetRun180 or any other charity which helps veterans," he said.