A statue of Leeds war veteran Simon Brown has been unveiled at his former school as a “symbol” of the sacrifices made by soldiers.
Ex-Woodkirk Academy pupil Mr Brown, from Morley, was shot in the face by a sniper in 2006 while serving in Iraq.
And today, the statue, created by Help for Heroes and formerly exhibited at Trafalgar Square in London, was dedicated to his old school in Tingley.
Around 100 children gathered in the school’s hall for a special assembly ahead of the statue unveiling, as youngsters gave a variety of poetry readings and thank you messages to former pupil Mr Brown.
Harry Jennings, a year 10 pupil at the school, told Mr Brown: “You are a local hero putting your life before others.”
Another youngster, Emily Berry, also from year 10, bravely spoke of her struggles with anxiety after being involved in a car crash earlier this year.
“It has really affected me,” she said.
“But when I hear your story it really makes me thing about the bigger things that people go through.”
The 14-year-old, from Dewsbury, said watching Mr Brown’s fundraising videos for Help for Heroes had inspired her.
She added: “It made me want to be like you one day, someone who inspires people to keep going and do things that they are scared of.”
Former pupil and Leeds Rhinos star Steve Ward also attended the ceremony, at which the school’s brass band performed.
“It’s a massive inspiration to me, words can’t really do it justice,” the Super League Grand Final winner told the YEP.
“The statue is something that people can look to now for inspiration.”
Mr Brown said the messages in the assembly were touching for him.
“It was really nice to get their opinions and how they read into it all”, he said.
“I didn’t want the statue here as a monument to me, but as a symbol to those from the school who have served and it’s nice that they now have a monument.
“I wasn’t the greatest student but I have done well by working hard and that’s a symbol that if you put the graft in, there’s always going to be an opportunity for you.”
Woodkirk Academy’s headteacher yesterday thanked Mr Brown for dedicating the statue.
Principal Joe Barton said: “We are delighted that Simon has chosen to dedicate the statue to our school.
“We feel that it will serve as an inspiration to our students and staff and a reminder of the sacrifice and resilience that Simon embodies.”