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Iraq 20

On 20 March, it will be 20 years since the start of the Iraq War. Blind veteran Simon shares his story here as part of a commemoration of the service of our Iraq War veterans.

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Blind veteran Simon is wearing a blazer, tie, and medals. He looks into camera and holds a photo of himself with both hands.

This is a special insight into the experience and sacrifice of one British soldier who served in Iraq.

On his second tour of Iraq in 2006, Simon was shot in the face, leaving him blinded and with severe facial injuries. Nothing would ever be the same for him again. But, this is also a story of hope because, thanks to our supporters, Simon has rebuilt his life. Despite losing his Army career and his independence, he has learned to live by himself, has a job, and a rugby coaching role in the community which fills him with purpose. 

£20 for the 20th anniversary

To honour Iraq War veterans like Simon, will you join us in this appeal to raise urgently-needed funds? Since Simon’s shocking injury, equipment and one-to-one support have been key in helping him adapt to life after sight loss. 

By supporting this Iraq 20 Appeal, you can help provide vital rehabilitation and equipment to show veterans like Simon that their service is not forgotten.

Blind veteran Simon with white cane
Simon using his cane.

The 20th anniversary means a lot to Simon

He and his squadron were one of the first to cross the border into Iraq 20 years ago.

"I remember it being quite surreal really, because you're going through the really rural areas just over the border and they've got no access to any media whatsoever. They're waving at you and putting their thumbs up. They had no idea what was going on."

Over three years later, on 6 December 2006, recovery commander Simon set out on the patrol mission in Basra that would cost him his sight.

Simon and his team managed to successfully recover a vehicle under heavy fire. Once everybody was safely out of danger, his recovery vehicle went to pull away, but heavy dust meant the driver could not safely manoeuvre. Simon put his head out of the turret to check the route was clear. As he pulled his head back in, he felt an impact on the side of his face.

The bullet caused his palate to collapse. Simon had to hold open his airway for the 25-minute journey back to base. Astoundingly, Simon remained conscious until he arrived at medical facilities and was placed in an induced coma.

“A lot of people just thought I was dead because not many folks have survived a head shot.”
Blind veteran

Simon woke up 17 days later.

He was in a Birmingham hospital, his face encased in a metal cage. It took a while for him to comprehend the magnitude of his injuries. It took him much longer to come to terms with the news that he had lost his sight.

“When I did start to understand that a bit more. That's when I got angry, then upset, then depressed. I just felt cheated. I felt like, I’d done everything right on the battlefield and this is what I got for a reward. How does that work?”

When Simon was introduced to our charity, he was thankful to have joined a community of veterans who understood his situation.

"That was the key element of being involved in Blind Veterans UK the early days, it was that peer support. Listening to how they came to terms with it, how they dealt with it, the adaptations that they made, it made a lot more doorways seem a lot less intimidating."

“You’re like a fly at the window. You know you want to be outside but you don’t know how to get out there, but Blind Veterans UK actually opened the window.”
Blind veteran

In the early stages following his injury, Simon faced a number of barriers. He was told that he would find it difficult to live independently, and that he would struggle to work.

Thanks to the support and rehabilitation he received from our charity, eight months later Simon was living independently in his own home. Then, he found a job – and suddenly, his life had purpose.

"That's what Blind Veterans UK did. It showed me what the possibilities were, gave me the tools, and the confidence to try myself."
A young Simon standing proudly in his Army uniform
Young Simon in uniform, before his injuries
Simon in recovery with his face encased in a metal frame
Simon in hospital with a metal cage on his face
Simon playing rugby

How your £20 donation can honour his service

Simon's story shows us just how important the support he's received has been in rebuilding his life after sight loss. With your help, we can offer this to more veterans in need. 

Craig is another Iraq War veteran who has shared his story. 

Like Simon, he was blinded in service. His account of the experience of war is frank, honest and unmissable. 

Read more
Blind veteran Craig

More ways to support our work