Matt Wilson

 

Following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great grandfather, Matt Wilson joined the Army in 2005 aged just 19, choosing the Rifles Regiment.

He first saw action in Iraq in 2006, completing a 6 month tour based in Basra before returning home. His time back in England was far from restful, as Matt’s Battalion was a part of Operation Spearhead – where they were permanently packed and ready to be deployed. Sure enough, Matt spent 2 months in Kosovo in 2007 as part of the UN peacekeeping force.

Matt’s next tour of duty was Afghanistan in spring 2009. Three months into a seven month tour, on 7th June, Matt was on foot patrol in Sangin. Despite six fellow soldiers marching in front, Matt stepped on the pressure-pad of a concealed roadside bomb.

“I was thrown backwards by the blast - I basically did a back-flip. For about 20 seconds I had no idea what had happened. It was then that I looked down to at my left leg to see that it was missing below the knee and I could look through my left forearm as it had a hole all the way through it.”

Matt was air-lifted to Camp Bastion, where he was put into a medically-induced coma that lasted for 5 days. At Camp Bastion he underwent emergency surgery to enable him to be flown back to Birmingham Selly Oak Hospital. Matt was in intensive care for 2 weeks. Over the coming months, Matt underwent numerous operations to rebuild his left arm and what was left of his left leg. Muscle, skin, ligaments and arteries were taken from his right leg and transplanted into his left arm. What the doctors achieved was quite remarkable.

“It was obvious that my left leg was gone below the knee. However, my thigh was so smashed-up, it looked as though it would have to be amputated even higher. In addition, my left arm was so mangled, there was a real risk that this would have to be amputated also. What the doctors managed to do was amazing.”

From Birmingham, Matt went to Headley Court – and there began a long recovery process. Matt started in a one-handed wheelchair, then moved onto a two-handed chair - a process that took 4 months as he built his strength back-up. From there it was onto crutches before being fitted with a prosthetic leg. Hours and hours of gym and pool work and physiotherapy followed.

“Recovery was really tough. I went to some pretty dark places. My father was killed by a roadside bomb on patrol with 3 Para in Northern Ireland in 1989 when he was 23 years and 7 months old – exactly the same age I was when I trod on the bomb. You start to ask “Why me? Why my family?”. However, the support I received at Headley Court was phenomenal and helped me get myself back together.”

 

Matt’s ambition was to return to the front line. However, his injuries were such that this was not possible. Consequently, he has been medically discharged from the Army and is now focusing on the future.

 

“I was offered a desk-job by the Army, but that was never going to be for me. I had always fancied the idea of flying, and Help For Heroes helped me obtain a flying scholarship. So I am training for my International Pilot’s licence, and want to then get my Commercial Pilot’s licence.”

 

In addition, Matt has learned to ski and to scuba-dive thanks to trips organised by BLESMA. His ambition is to work in Mozambique, flying tourists to remote islands off the coast, and then taking them scuba-diving.

 

“The support that I have received from Help for Heroes, BLESMA and The Rifles has been amazing. This is why I want to be involved with Horses Help Heroes. It is going to be a fantastic challenge – I have never driven a horse and carriage before – and it is going to help raise lots of money for the charities that have supported me so much. Bring it on!”

Matt Wilson

 

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