Simon Brown was a corporal in the Royal Electrical and
Mechanical Engineers attached to 2 Lancs in Iraq when he sustained
facial injuries during a rescue mission in Basra. Simon lost his
left eye and has only 20 per cent vision in his right.
On the day of his injury, Simon had successfully rescued six of
his colleagues whose vehicle had broken down. As he was withdrawing
from the area, 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
Simon's colleagues rushed him to emergency treatment at nearby
Basra Palace, where he was given a lifesaving tracheotomy to let
him breathe. Then he was airlifted by helicopter to the base
hospital where he had the first of many operations to rebuild his
face. A day later he was transferred back home for further
treatment and rehabilitation at the UK's Selly Oak hospital. His
cheekbones and nose were reconstructed using titanium, his jaw
broken and remoulded and a prosthetic eye fitted.
Simon's first visit to Blind Veterans UK was to our Sheffield
centre for training where he received a great deal of practical
support. This included a rehabilitation programme to help him
adjust to sight loss and go on to live independently.
As well as practical support we also gave Simon emotional care
through regular contact with a dedicated welfare officer. Simon
said: "As well as all the invaluable and practical support offered
by Blind Veterans UK, it was the sense of belonging and
understanding from their community that's really helped me to stay
positive. I'm a member of the younger Blind Veterans Group; we meet
up to discuss new ideas and initiatives, share a joke and keep each
Speaking about his seven month service in Iraq, Simon said: "My
experience there was very challenging; it changed me as a person.
The invasion stage of my deployment was in actual fact less
difficult than the peacekeeping stage. We were trained to invade
and fight whereas the re-building stage was something we were not
used to doing.
"One day I was fighting a war, the next I was giving out water,
and helping to re-build a community. A very sudden transition was
asked of us when the invasion stage was over, and we had to
suddenly change our whole approach and act with a solely
compassionate and helpful attitude.
"More than anything, the kinship I felt during my time out there
was extraordinary. You get to know the people you serve with better
than you know yourself. It was excellent getting the opportunity to
form those kinds of friendships.
"I do feel a real sense of achievement when I think about my
time In Iraq, and I know that my comrades feel this too. We went in
there and did exactly what was asked of us. Seeing the real
jubilation on the faces of the Iraqis and hearing them shout
'liberation' through the streets, is something I will never
Since receiving support from Blind Veterans UK Simon has been
able to regain his independence and self confidence, and now, six
years after he first requested our free support, he works full time
in Blind Veterans UK's Headquarters as a Memberships Officer,
responsible for recruiting more blind veterans.
Simon said: "Iraq changed me just as much mentally as it did
physically, and ten years on the scars are still there. Blind
Veterans UK helped me through the very worst times and for that I
am very grateful. Supporting the charity by working at it and
trying to spread the word about its work as much as I can is my way
of saying thank you for everything they have given me".
As a testament to his growing confidence, Simon was recognised
for his contribution to charity with a General Officer Commanding
We launched the No One Alone campaign to reach out to more
people like Simon. It is estimated that there are 68,000 plus blind
veterans who could be eligible for our help but are unaware of it.
If you know someone who served in the Armed Forces or National
Service who now suffers with sight loss (including age-related
sight loss) request our free support by calling 0800 389
When Maria Pikulski lost her sight, her world fell apart.
Matt Rhodes lost his sight when a motorbike accident gave him severe injuries.
Billy Baxter lost his sight when he contracted a rare virus whilst Serving in Bosnia.
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