A soldier who struggled to get back on track after returning from the frontline today told how the University of Sunderland helped change his life.

Chris Hunter has never stopped battling.

Growing up in Hendon, Sunderland, he attended Southmoor School but left with few qualifications.

At 16 he joined the Army and felt he had finally found his role in life, creating strong bonds with his brothers-in-arms.

Chris, now 37, from Hendon, served for almost 20 years with the Coldstream Guards, including tours of duty in Iraq, and 18 months in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban.

He would go on to receive a Task Force Helmand Commander’s commendation for his ‘inspirational leadership and calmness under fire’.

But his years of service were not without heartache. Chris would lose eight of his comrades. It was a heavy price and would go on to take its toll on the soldier after he left the Army in 2018.

Chris developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and adjustment disorder which is a stress-related condition. He returned home to the North East but felt displaced and even spent time sleeping under his Army poncho on Seaham beach during a spell of homelessness.

It was in 2017 that he signed up for a one year Business Applied Management programme at the University.

“I had got qualifications during my time in the Services,” said Chris. “I rang up the university and they told me it was enough for me to come and do the programme there.

“It was thanks to the University that I really started looking at the things I could do, at the strategic side of business.”

During this time Chris auditioned to become a ‘Dreamboy’ in Newcastle and landed a spot with the prestigious national ‘Dreamboy’ tour.

Pre-pandemic he was touring the country with the group, but that side of his career is currently on hold until theatres reopen.

Chris said: “I struggled when I came out of the Army as it was all I had known since I joined up at 16. It was my life.

“I had been doing some personal training, but my heart was not really in it. But I had started a company called Frontline Fitness and was wearing some branded hoodies

“Some people thought it was a full clothing line and they were asking me where they could get it from.

“So Chris used his business acumen to start up his own clothing company Frontline ind.

Chris said: “The idea originated from wanting to of support those who have been affected by fighting on the frontline, and quickly evolved to signify the struggles that everyone faces on a daily basis.

“Everyone has battle scars from their own individual battles. Whether that be, personal demons to destroy or goals to conquer.”

A dad to nine-year-old CJ, Chris has rebuilt his life and is now taking an entrepreneurial role in mapping out his own future.

The University of Sunderland is committed to helping and supporting former service personnel who are hoping to retrain after leaving the Forces.

The University signed the Armed Forces Covenant in 2018. This is a promise to ensure that those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated fairly. The University is playing a key role in helping these veterans, young and old, get back onto the career ladder.