Homeless Veterans Appeal: A soldier maimed by war who refuses to be a victim

Aid from a charity supported by 'The Independent' allowed Andy Reid to get on with his life

Chris Green@cghgreen
Friday 05 December 2014 19:11
comments

In 2009, while on patrol in Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, Andy Reid stood on an improvised explosive device. “The next thing I was aware of was laying on the floor on my back with a big dust cloud all around me,” he recalls.

“I couldn’t hear anything at all. It was quite strange because I wasn’t in any pain – it felt like I’d just run into a door, there was numbness throughout my body. I looked down and couldn’t see my legs, but I couldn’t see any blood either. I began shouting for the medic as loud as I could, but I couldn’t hear myself.”

Slipping in and out of consciousness, he was taken back to Camp Bastion and put in an induced coma, before being flown back to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham.

He remembers very little of his first week there, but vividly recalls his first thought when the doctors informed him of the full extent of his injuries. “I’m a survivor, not a victim,” he says.

Several men that Reid served alongside had been killed in similar incidents. “I thought: ‘They’re no longer here and I still am, so I’m going to set myself some goals and start moving myself forward.’”

Reid joined the Army when he was 21, but his interest in the forces began as a child when he listened to his grandfather’s stories about his own service.

Around the same time – when he was 11 – Reid’s mother had her leg amputated, the result of complications from a car crash years earlier. He now believes that this partially explains his extraordinarily calm reaction to his own injuries.

“I’d grown up with my mum being an amputee, so I wasn’t really that concerned,” he says. “She brought up four kids up in a three-storey Victorian house and just got on with it. Most people, even soldiers, probably don’t know another amputee, but having an insight into it did help.”

Remarkably, Reid only spent two weeks in hospital before he was ready to make his first trip home. But there was a problem: the house he shared in St Helens with his girlfriend, Claire, was totally unsuited to the needs of a triple amputee. The couple were delighted when a grant from ABF The Soldiers’ Charity – one of two organisations being supported by The Independent’s Homeless Veterans appeal – paid for the necessary adjustments.

“He was desperate to just come home for a couple of days to be out of the hospital environment,” says Claire, 33. “The ABF came and turned the front door around, put a ramp in and had a bed put downstairs.

“If it wasn’t for them making those adaptations, Andy wouldn’t have been able to come home I can’t thank the charity enough for what they did in those early days.”

Reid himself says it was a huge boost to be able to “go home, shut the front door, lock everyone else out and maybe have a little cry” with Claire. The couple married in 2011 and now have a two-year-old son, Will.

When they moved house, The Soldiers’ Charity also funded the installation of a lift and a wet-room. But Reid, whose mantra is to “keep pushing myself forward”, does not like sitting around at home.

Since his injury, he has completed two tandem skydives, taken part in a 10km run, abseiled in Blackpool and written an autobiography, Standing Tall.

He had his first taste of public speaking while on a cruise ship. He later took a course in motivational speaking – again funded by The Soldiers’ Charity – and is now regularly booked by companies, sports teams and schools.

“When I do a talk at a school, I think if one kid changes their attitude towards learning or towards life, then it’s all been worthwhile and I’ve achieved something,” he says. “And I wanted to write the book not so much for other injured guys, but for their parents or wives or children, so they could get a bit more of an insight into what their partner or son might be going through.

Since his injury, Reid has met many civilians who have lost limbs, and says he is often saddened by the fact that while he received excellent support from both the Army and The Soldiers’ Charity, the same cannot be said for them.

In an attempt to redress the balance, he has set up his own charity – Amputation Inspiration Motivation, or AIM – with fellow amputee Stephen Cruse. “People say to me: ‘But Andy, you lost your legs serving the country,’ but it was a job at the end of the day, and I loved doing it,” he says.

“I don’t think that the country owes me a big debt. Why should I get better legs than that guy, just because I was in the Army and he wasn’t?”

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments