On 19 July 2007, Derek was in Helmand Province, clearing a helicopter landing site and went up to high ground to get a clear view of the area. As his vehicle reversed to park, it hit an IED and exploded. Derek says ‘I remember lying there with my legs shattered and people around me screaming. I looked up to the sky and said a prayer: Lord Jesus, if you need to use me to motivate others about Your Kingdom, please give me back my life again.’
Back in Camp Bastion, Derek was pronounced dead but amazingly, one of the doctors saw a slight pulse movement. He was operated on and then taken back to the UK. For the next two weeks, he was in an induced coma. When he eventually woke up, his wife and a doctor were by his bedside. He asked if he could go to the loo but his wife, Ana, replied, ‘I’m afraid you can’t as you’ve lost your legs’. Derek was shocked: ‘I couldn’t believe it because I could feel that I still had my boots on and my feet were very warm.’
Since that day, Derek hasn’t let his disability get in the way of anything. He is involved with Battle Back, who are funded by H4H, playing sitting volleyball as well as discus, javelin and shot put. He admits that his life has taken a different course from the one he anticipated; as one of the first British soldiers to benefit from H4H, he managed to get selected to represent Great Britain in Discus at the 2012 London Paralympic Games. To add to that massive achievement, Derek has also broken two British records in shot put and is attempting the same for the javelin.
Derek has also been involved in Help for Heroes Band of Brothers which has enabled him to go to events such as the Heroes Concert where he was interviewed for the BBC and the Help for Heroes Rugby match at Twickenham in 2008. It was here that the iconic picture of him running on his prosthetic legs whilst throwing a rugby ball to Lawrence Dallaglio was taken.
‘Help for Heroes is a fantastic charity. What they have done to raise the awareness of wounded soldiers like myself and raise awareness of what we do here in the UK and abroad and to be associated with Help for Heroes, I’m just thankful.’