‘I have to honour my friends who lost their lives’
It takes a special man to set his own personal trauma aside and choose to work tirelessly for others instead.
But that’s exactly what our best Hero Simon Brown has done since he sustained life-changing injuries while fighting for his country.
On 6 December 2006, Simon was leading a daring mission to rescue six stranded colleagues in Basra, Iraq.
He was in dangerous terrain, known locally as the ‘ killing zone’. The mission was almost complete when Simon was caught in an ambush.
A sniper’s bullet entered his left cheek and exited through his right cheek, shattering both cheekbones. It destroyed his left eye and severely damaged his right.
Calm and level-headed, Simon gave himself first aid.
‘Once I realised I wasn’t dead, I was able to think methodically,’ he says. ‘I opened my own airway. My nose had gone, and my palate had dropped down and blocked it.’
Simon, then 28, was rescued from the battlefield and, 17 days later, he woke from a coma in Birmingham’s Selly Oak Hospital to the news he’d lost 80 per cent of his sight.
For many people, this would have sparked despair. But for Simon, from Morley in West Yorkshire, it was the start of a truly inspiring fightback mission. Now, more than a decade since that day in Basra, Simon, 38, devotes his life to helping other injured soldiers.
As Communications and Engagement Officer for Blind Veterans UK, he travels the country to promote the range of support on offer to blind and vision-impaired former servicemen and women.
Simon says, ‘Iraq changed me just as much mentally as it did physically. The charity helped me through the very worst times. Supporting them is my way of saying thank you.’
In addition to this vital work, and his role as a Help For Heroes Band Of Brothers ambassador, Simon is also committed to helping educate children and young people.
Within a year of his injury, Simon had begun volunteering with Groundwork, an organisation that aims to build confidence and skills in young people.
Since 2013, he’s also been involved in a project with Derbyshire Police called Your Choice. As part of this scheme, Simon speaks to GCSE students about the importance of the choices they’ll make in their teenage years.
‘My life changed on that day in Basra, but I have to keep going,’ says Simon, who is single and divides his time between London and Leeds.
‘ We lost 28 men while I was on that tour of Basra.
‘I couldn’t lie in bed feeling sorry for myself – it was my duty to get up and honour my colleagues’ memory.’
Simon rescued six colleagues before he was shot by a sniper The former soldier works tirelessly to help injured servicemen and women