Yorkshire war hero tells pupils about the importance of being a survivor

Simon Brown.
Simon Brown.
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A WAR hero and students have taken inspiration from one another at a school’s annual ceremony to celebrate pupils’ success.

Former solider Simon Brown, who lost an eye when he was shot in the face by a sniper during a rescue mission in Iraq, told Risedale Sports and Community College’s annual prize-giving: “I find it so inspiring to see so many young people achieve so much.”

Mr Brown, from Leeds, told pupils at the Catterick Garrison school about how he suffered his injuries and how he was able to find the will to recover. He was serving in Iraq ten years ago and was on a mission to rescue six men from the 2nd Rifles when he was shot.

He lost his left eye and most of the vision in his right.

He helped rescued six of his colleagues whose vehicle had broken down. As he was withdrawing he was hit by sniper fire. A bullet entered his left cheek and exited through his right cheek, shattering both cheekbones, destroying his left eye and severely damaging his right eye. He told pupils: “Fortunately, I wasn’t knocked out and was able to perform my own first aid for 25 minutes.

“My palate had collapsed making it difficult to breathe so I pushed it back in with my thumb.

I was put into an induced coma, which I came out of on Christmas Eve 2006.

“I had lost my sight, my career and, I assumed, my future. I thought about all the effort I had put into serving my country and this was my reward.

“But while I was in the coma two of my friends were killed so I stopped being self-centred and realised I had a choice – be a victim or a survivor.

“I chose survivor honouring the memory of the men and women who had given their lives.

“I came out of hospital with all the drive and energy I needed to rebuild my life and to do something positive for society.”

He was helped by Help for Heroes and now works for Blind Veterans UK. “They helped me find my direction and focus and to get involved in my local community,” he said. “Now I am working to help veterans of all ages rebuild their lives. My injuries have helped me be a better person and pass on what I have learnt.

“I would not be here to day without students like you who listen and go on to achieve and become doctors and leaders of industry.”

He urged students to be a survivor not a victim and to go for their goals. “Be proud of who you are because you are all special and respect everyone else’s achievements,” he said. “I needed the help of friends, family and colleagues so look after each other and take the opportunities that present themselves,” he added.

Governor Andrew Smith told the audience that this year saw the highest number of accolades ever awarded in the history of the school.

He praised associate principal John Kelly and executive principal Mick Hill, who are both retiring, for their efforts that had seen the school move from special measures to agood rating by Ofsted.

“We now have to maintain these standards ensuring the school remains as good as it is now,long into the future,” he said.

Awards were presented for effort, progress and achievement in academic subjects areas, sport and music.