Salute for hero as military honours its wounded

MoD responds to pressure from rank-and-file soldiers for greater recognition for injured troops

As Vice-Admiral Adrian Johns strode towards him, Marine Joseph Townsend saluted confidently. Back in his uniform for the first time since being wounded in Afghanistan, he smiled broadly as the Second Sea Lord pinned the distinctive Operation Herrick medal to his chest in front of his commanding officer, comrades, friends and family.

But the moving ceremony last week was far from the parade ground where Marine Townsend's comrades received their medals on Wednesday. Still weakened by the impact of a roadside bomb that destroyed his legs in the Upper Gereshk Valley last February, he could not make the journey to Norton Manor camp in Taunton, Somerset. Instead, a party of senior officers and well-wishers flew to Selly Oak hospital, Birmingham, to present his campaign medal in person.

Marine Townsend, who turned 20 just weeks after being injured, was determined to be out of his bed to receive his medal. His Regimental Sergeant Major, Kevin Moss, said the presentation was inspirational. "It was the first time he had sat up in a wheelchair unaided. It was great to see him looking so well with a big smile on his face. One or two of the ladies had a few tears in their eyes when he received his medal," he said.

"He is a young lad and just to see him sitting there was fantastic. It was emotional. He has got a long road ahead of him. I am sure there will be dark days, but he has got the capability to do it."

The pains taken to deliver Marine Townsend's medal reflect the military's increasing efforts to honour its wounded. The Government and the Ministry of Defence are under pressure to honour the Military Covenant, reflecting a growing desire among troops for recognition of their efforts.

The small emotional ceremony was a sharp reminder of what Vice-Admiral Johns described as the price the Royal Marines had paid for their success in Helmand. Twenty-five were seriously injured; three of them – Lieutenant John Thornton RM, 22, Marine David Marsh, 23, and Corporal Damian Mulvihill, 32 – did not make it home.

"They will be sorely missed," Vice-Admiral Johns told the marines at Taunton last week. "Every man on parade here will have their own way of remembering them." Among those on parade were two other stark reminders of the horror they had witnessed: Marine Mark Ormrod, 24, who lost both of his legs and an arm, and Marine Ben McBean, 21, who lost an arm and a leg.

Sergeant Major Bob Toomey recalled the moment he first saw Marine Ormrod after he was injured: "Because of the mines, we had to clear a route for the medic to get to Mark. The very first thing he said to me was, 'That's my dancing career over.' I said, 'No it's not, Rammers, no it's not.'"

Several hundred burly Royal Marines battled tears as Marine Ormrod took his first steps in public. The 24-year-old nervously lifted himself out of the wheelchair on his new legs. For the entire 45-minute ceremony he stood, as his nickname suggested, ramrod-straight next to them.

"It was a strange feeling," said Marine Ormrod with a smile. "I wanted to make some of them cry so I could take the mick out of them. I heard some of them sniffling. The worst thing was when the wind picked up and I thought it would blow me over. But if I had fallen over I would have got back up and cracked on again."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there