A WILTSHIRE veteran has reflected on events in Afghanistan as he prepares to walk 400km with the wounded. 

Andy Phillips, a former armourer in the RAF, is taking part in the Grenadier Walk of Oman with five other veterans on October 10.

The walk, being held in London because of the pandemic, aims to raise funds for veteran causes, especially in light of the recent withdrawal of of Western forces from Afghanistan 

Andy, whose sister served in the country, said: “We had to leave at some stage, I don’t anybody thought the situation would change quite as drastically, or quickly, as it has.

“It must be very difficult for the families who have lost servicemen. Most servicemen I’ve spoken to and myself are really sorry for the Afghan people.

“All the work and effort we put in might have come to nothing. I never served out there, my sister did and lots of my friends did, on the whole they really liked the Afghan people.

“They were genuinely nice people who were trying to get on with their lives. All this money and all these lives and all this time put into it, it’s almost now back to day one 20 years ago.”

Andy was injured in 1990 during the build up to the Gulf War. A lifting accident in the gun bay left him with serious spinal injuries. And although he took part in Operation Granby in Saudi Arabia, the complications worsened his condition and he was discharged in 1993.

With his father, grandfathers and uncles all serving in the military, his dream was shattered.

He eventually got back involved in the military at the 2014 Invictus Games, winning a gold in archery.

The Malmesbury man said: “All I wanted to do since school was join the military and for someone to tell me ‘that’s it, that’s the end of it you’re out’, I think numbness is probably the best word to come up with.

“Going back to 1990, the internet didn’t exist, emails didn’t exist, the only way to keep in contact with people was landlines and most people I worked with didn’t have landlines so you lost touch with people very quickly.

“From the day I got medically discharged I never heard  from the military again. It wasn’t until I took part in the Invictus Games that I actually realised how bitter and angry I was for the way I was treated.

“Winning the gold medal in London in 2014, that actually drew a line under my military career.”

He said: “The military didn’t address it particularly well, a lot of it was ‘take more painkillers and go back to work’. By the time I came back from Saudi Arabia, it got to the stage where I could barely walk.

“I was taken to RAF Ely in Cambridgeshire where they did an epidural and took me down to RAF Wroughton.They did a CT scan, realised the damage and I was under the knife the next day.”

Andy now has little feeling in his legs. 

The walk, due to start from the Omani Embassy in London, will be a challenge but Andy is looking forward to participating regardless.

The event has already been rescheduled twice due to Covid-19 and has been moved from Oman to London.

He said: "We’ve had so many ups and downs with Covid, now we just want to get it started.”

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