“I think about the sacrifices made by my fellow soldiers, I think about the families of the guys we lost, and I try to be grateful for what I have. Remembrance is a good time to do that."
Lionel O’Connor served with the Royal Anglian Regiment.
He lost his left leg above the knee in an attack on his vehicle in Iraq in 2006, which resulted in two of his comrades being killed.
“I was in a Land Rover on a routine patrol when, all of a sudden, there was a big cloud of dust and sparks. I fell backwards – it was like I was in a tumble dryer – and everything went silent.
After a while I heard shouting but it took me a few seconds to realise it was me! I could move three of my limbs, but my left leg wouldn’t move at all.
One of the guys I was in the vehicle with was a good friend; he’d looked after me – he taught me how to be a soldier. His face was right by mine. I tried to get him off me but he wouldn’t respond. I opened his eye with my thumb and knew he was dead.
Another soldier, Adam, was lying on top of both of us. He had been killed too.
I felt for my knee and touched the bone that was sticking out - my left leg had been blown off and I had shrapnel in my right leg. But it was nothing compared to what had happened to the others. I was given morphine and passed out in the helicopter."
"Rehabilitation was ok because I was fit, but over the years it got tougher, partly because I was drinking a lot. I was discharged from the Army in 2014 and for a long time I felt like I didn’t need help, but my drinking was getting worse.
I’ve had some very dark times, but realised that if I did anything silly to myself, it would be my family that suffered.
I have four children who were there for me when I needed them, so I know I need to be here for them now. And I’ve thought a lot about the guys who were killed – they didn’t have the choice to waste their lives!"
The rest of my life
“Blesma was there for me right from the start, a Member came to see me in hospital and said: ‘Don’t worry – I’m one of you!’ and lifted his trousers to show me his two missing legs. The great thing with Blesma is that they know exactly what to do. Early in my recovery, they took me skiing and rafting in Colorado, which opened my eyes to a whole new world.
“If you’ve ever lost somebody who has looked after you – someone close – that is the feeling I have on Remembrance Day. I think about the sacrifices made by my fellow soldiers, I think about the families of the guys we lost, and I try to be grateful for what I have.
I’m not religious, but I understand the idea of giving thanks. Remembrance is a good time to do that.”