Simon Brown talks to BBC Radio Leeds about Iraq ten years on

19 March 2013 11:00

Simon Brown was one of the first soldiers to arrive in Iraq following the British invasion 10 years ago today. He speaks to BBC Radio Leeds about Iraq ten years on.

Simon Brown was one of the first soldiers to arrive in Iraq following the British invasion 10 years ago today.

Simon, from Morely, Yorkshire, joined the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in 1997 at the age of 18 and worked on Army vehicles serving in Germany, Kosovo, Poland, Canada, Oman and lastly, Iraq.

During his service in Basra, Iraq, Simon was shot in the head while rescuing six of his colleagues whose vehicle had broken down. Though he survived, the damage to his face was catastrophic, causing him to lose his left eye and leaving him with only ten per cent peripheral vision in his right eye. Blind Veterans UK supported Simon through his sight loss, providing him with exceptional rehabilitation and training to help him recover his independence.

Speaking about his seven month service in Iraq, Simon said: "My experience there was very challenging; it changed me as a person. The invasion stage of my deployment was in actual fact less difficult than the peacekeeping stage. We were trained to invade and fight whereas the re-building stage was something we were not used to doing.

"One day I was fighting a war, the next I was giving out water, and helping to re-build a community. A very sudden transition was asked of us when the invasion stage was over, and we had to suddenly change our whole approach and act with a solely compassionate and helpful attitude.

"More than anything, the kinship I felt during my time out there was extraordinary. You get to know the people you serve with better than you know yourself. It was excellent getting the opportunity to form those kinds of friendships.

"I do feel a real sense of achievement when I think about my time In Iraq, and I know that my comrades feel this too. We went in there and did exactly what was asked of us. Seeing the real jubilation on the faces of the Iraqis and hearing them shout 'liberation' through the streets, is something I will never forget".

Since becoming a member of Blind Veterans UK Simon has been able to regain his independence and self confidence, and now, six years after he first joined, he works full time in our Headquarters as its Memberships Officer, responsible for recruiting more members.

Simon said: "Iraq changed me just as much mentally as it did physically, and ten years on the scares are still there. Blind Veterans UK helped me through the very worst times and for that I am very grateful. Supporting the charity by working at it and trying to spread the word about its work as much as I can is my way of saying thank you for everything they have given me".

Simon recently spoke on BBC Radio Leeds about Iraq ten years on. Listen to Simon Brown talking to BBC Radio Leeds on Audioboo.