March 7 2014 Latest news:
Monday, January 27, 2014
A soldier who lost an eye to a stray bullet while serving in Afghanistan has praised the “life-changing” support the Royal British Legion gives to wounded servicemen and their families.
Sam Jack, from Stansted Mountfitchet in Essex, served with the 33 EOD Engineer Regiment in Helmand Province in spring 2009 as part of a team tasked with clearing mines and improvised explosive devices.
But he had only been on tour for six weeks when a colleague’s bullet ricocheted off a wall and hit him in the head.
As well as losing his right eye in the freak accident, he suffered brain damage, the results of which he is still living with today.
Mr Jack, now 26, spoke of the “brilliant” work of the legion, which is being backed in the EADT’s Shoulder to Shoulder campaign. The aim of Shoulder to Shoulder is to support the RBL in their work to help servicemen and women who have served their country but now need assistance because of money troubles, physical injuries or psychological scars.
Mr Jack said volunteers working for the organisation gave invaluable advice when his family applied for compensation and provided a reassuring presence to him, and his mother and father, in the dark times following his injury.
“I don’t remember anything about being shot, “ said Mr Jack. “My last memory is having a cigarette with a pal and then I woke up in the military hospital in Selly Oak in Birmingham, and my mum was beside my bed.
”At that point they didn’t know the extent of my injuries and both my eyes were covered up with bandages.”
He added: “I had to have the front of my skull removed to ease the swelling in my brain and later they told me I would have to lose an eye.
“I was still in denial – I thought I’d be back in Afghanistan in six months’ time.”
In the difficult months that followed, advisers from the RBL worked with Mr Jack’s father to ensure his compensation claim was all in order.
Calls and visits were made to ensure the family was bearing up and later to find out whether Mr Jack needed any adaptations made to his home and to discuss his options for retraining once he had left the Army.
“Its not something you think about – how to go about claiming compensation or retraining – until it happens to you and then it can be a complicated procedure but the legion helped us through it,” added Mr Jack, who considers himself “lucky” compared with some of his fellow servicemen.
One colleague lost both legs and an arm to a mine attack while several others have had “serious injuries”. The support they received from the Legion, he describes as “life-changing”.
The brain damage suffered by Mr Jack, who today has an artificial right eye, means he is sometimes unco-ordinated and prone to memory loss. He also has sporadic bouts of exhaustion which means he cannot work full-time.
This he finds the most frustrating element of his injury, considering what an active young man he was before the accident.
But he is still able to get out and promote the work of the Legion. He has helped launch the annual Poppy Appeal in his community on several occasions and has also given a talk to Army cadets about the good work carried out by the organisation.
He added: “A lot of people assume the Royal British Legion is to do with older veterans from the Second World War but they help out serviceman from all conflicts right up to recent conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Their work is as important today as it has ever been.”