EX-para Troy Connor has made an heroic battle back to fitness after surviving a bomb attack in Afghanistan that killed three colleagues.
The 34-year-old Lance Corporal was the sole survivor of an improvised explosive device that blew up his vehicle in 2009, leaving him with horrific injuries.
Now, after years of intense rehabilitation and recovery, he has thrown himself into fund-raising – so far netting nearly £10,000 for The Afghanistan Trust. The inspirational veteran, of Cousin Lane, Illingworth, Halifax, said: “I don’t feel like a hero. My friends out there, on the ground now – they are the heroes, getting up at 5am, doing patrols, living off rations in hot, horrible conditions, and maintaining vehicles, weapon systems and ammunition.
“I just want to get right behind the troops.”
Troy served with 3 Yorks, formerly 1st Battalion Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, and 2 Lancs, joining the Parachute Regiment in 2006.
He had completed tours of Germany, Canada, Kenya, Kosovo and Iraq before he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009.
Troy said: “I loved it. It’s a different world. They have a beautiful country and yet it’s wartorn. There’s that diversity.
“There’s always good morale in the Para regiment. The lads gel well together and work as a team. But that’s what you’re trained to do.”
But on August 6 the Jackal he was travelling in was hit by an IED - instantly killing his three colleagues Cpl Kevin Mulligan, 26, L/Cpl Dale Hopkins, 23, and Pte Kyle Adams, 21.
Troy was thrown from the vehicle and, lying unconscious with critical injuries, was ambushed by Taliban snipers and shot in the leg. Incredibly he survived.
He woke up in Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham with shrapnel wounds in his stomach and thigh, he’d lost the sight in one eye, had broken his back and had a severe brain injury.
When he woke, Troy’s family, who kept a bedside vigil while he was kept in an induced coma, had to break the devastating news of what had happened.
He said: “I was upset. I felt some feelings I’ve never felt before. It was deep. I felt guilty that I had survived and they didn’t.”
Surgeons had to remove part of Troy’s skull and fit him with a titanium plate. He was transferred to different hospitals over the next few months before an eight-month stint at the military rehabilitation unit at Headley Court in Surrey.
He said: “I could live with my other injuries. It’s the brain injury that was difficult to accept. You have to start again from scratch.
“I couldn’t walk. It took me a while to talk. I was catatonic for a bit, where you just stare into space.
“But one day - I can’t remember but this - my uncle put his thumb up at me, which I used to do as a kid, and I did it back. That’s when they knew I was going to be alright.
“No-one can give you a time with a brain injury. No-one can say ‘by December this year you’ll be walking and talking’.
“But I was really determined. I didn’t want to rely on other people.”
At Headley Court, he was given brain education - problem solving and processing skills - and saw occupational therapists and psychologists.
He said: “I had a lot of mood swings at that time, coming to terms with it. I was still frustrated, still a bit angry, still a bit guilty. I was in denial too. I couldn’t accept it.
“But I studied really hard - harder than I ever did in school.”
Now back home in Illingworth, Troy still works to regain his fitness and takes tablets daily to stave off seizures from post-traumatic epilepsy.
His remarkable recovery has been shown in his fund-raising missions for The Afghanistan Trust which include climbing the Yorkshire Three Peaks twice last year, a function night at Ogden Golf Club and a Halifax to Haworth walk last month.
Later this month he - and fund-raising friend and former 3 Yorks colleague Paul Cartlidge - will again climb the three peaks, this time for the Not Forgotten Association.
Troy said: “I feel positive about the future. I’m still here for a reason. So I want to do the best I can, while I can.”
To sponsor the boys visit http://www.justgiving.com/notfogotten3peaks