Iraq veteran Simon Brown, has thanked charity Blind Veterans UK for its life- changing support, seven years after he was shot in the head and blinded while on duty in Iraq.
It was Christmas Eve 2006 when Simon, from Morley, slowly woke up from a three-week drug induced coma that followed his injury.
By Christmas Day he had begun to realise that he had lost most of his sight and that his life would never be the same again.
“I was injured in early December 2006 and it was around this same time that my grandmother became terminally ill,” Simon said.
“Given everything that was going on my family completely ignored Christmas, unsurprisingly, it was like it didn’t come to our house that year”.
Simon had joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in 1997 at the age of 18 and worked on Army vehicles serving in Germany, Kosovo, Poland, Canada, Oman and lastly, Iraq.
During his service in Basra he was shot in the head while rescuing six of his colleagues whose vehicle had broken down.
The damage to his face was catastrophic, causing him to lose his left eye and leaving him with only 20 per cent peripheral vision in his right eye.
Blind Veterans UK supported Simon through his sight loss, providing him with rehabilitation and training to help him recover his independence.
Simon, now 35, said: “Becoming a member of Blind Veterans UK was absolutely life changing for me.
“It was actually around Christmas time too that I first went to the charity’s Sheffield centre.
“It was a year after my injury and I felt as though I had already reached a ceiling in my recovery, but joining the charity changed my perception of that very quickly.
“I learnt that there was so much more training that I could have to regain my independence.
“Now, seven years on, I live independently, work in the charity’s headquarters in London and travel up and down the country on my own, trying to raise awareness about the charity’s work at exhibitions, conferences, road shows and group presentations.
“Our key aim right now is trying to recruit more members because we know that we are not helping anywhere near as many blind veterans as we could be.
“I never imagined that I would be able to do these things before I joined the charity and I feel very fortunate that I can.
“I will never forget that Christmas in 2006 and how tough that was, but now I embrace Christmas as I had done before just with a new, strong appreciation of my independence and how lucky I am.
“I enjoy it with my friends and family back home in Morley”.
Blind Veterans UK has launched its No One Alone campaign to reach out to more veterans and their families.
It is estimated that there are over 68,000 blind veterans who could be eligible for the charity’s help but are unaware of it.
To find out more about Blind Veterans UK’s No One Alone campaign go to www.noonealone.org.uk.
For more information about the charity and its work you can also call 0800 389 7979.