For Matt Kingston, joining the Royal Marines seemed logical: it was a combination of his desire to be a soldier and his passion for the sea. Unfortunately, the full term career he had hoped for was ended on his first tour of Afghanistan. 'I guess that's just what we all signed up for at the end of the day and I don't regret a minute!'
In 2007, he was part of C-Company, 40 Commando Royal Marines. They were a close combat fighting company and Matt’s role was section 2nd in command in 8 Troop. On a routine patrol, he was on a roof with his GPMG gun and another rifleman, maintaining arcs for all round defence. ‘At this point the rounds starting snapping by and they were close!’ says Matt. 'Finding the enemy firing points was proving to be very hard and I'd love to say I went down in a blaze of glory, but not this time - I suddenly found myself off the roof, on the deck with my mate next to me, wondering what was going on!'
It transpired that his friend had thrown him off because a round of gun fire had come just a little too close for comfort. Matt tried to stand up and help his friend up but felt a searing pain in his ankle. 'Looking down I saw a small red dot of blood oozing out from each side of my right boot. I looked at my mate and he was the same! My rifleman was still on the roof, and he had been shot through both of his legs as well! The medics and rest of the lads were on us in an instant and began to co-ordinate our withdrawal. At the same time the Taliban began to co-ordinate their attack.'
‘C-Company were incredible in returning the fight to ensure our safety’ says Matt - his friend and the rifleman dragged, hopped, stretchered and crawled their way back to the helicopter medevac. A hail of bullets pummelled the company from three sides, another casualty was taken and there were many near misses, some bullets lodging into backpacks. 'If it wasn't for the bravery of C Company I'm not sure it would have gone so well' says Matt.
Once home, the long road to recovery began for Matt but he had a big decision to make - whether or not to have his lower limb amputated. After 10 months of rehab, Matt chose to have it amputated in October 2008.
Matt continued, 'Headley Court is where all of the injured guys come to get treated and Headley Court is where our lives are put back on track, with the help of Help for Heroes. Being there is humbling to say the least. It's funny - I get the mick taken out of me, as only missing one limb is 'beef'! To be a real man there you have to have at least an arm missing as well! The banter is incredible and it makes you realise how lucky you really are. The staff are amazing too, working long hours and dealing with such a complex and diverse range of injuries. They bear the burden of how badly injured some guys and girls really are.'
Three years on and through a combination of amazing physio, support from the Royal Marines, Help for Heroes and a dogged determination to be back to fitness again, Matt is now happy with his overall recovery. 'Being injured has shut many doors in my life, but has opened windows in so many other directions with things I have never even dreamed of doing. Help for Heroes and the Royal Marines have supported me in challenges like cycling 350 miles through France, twice, climbing mountains in Nepal, running the London Marathon and a plethora of other activities which have enabled me and many others to not only complete a challenge and feel good about myself, but prove to me and the rest of the world that there are no limits except the ones you set yourself. It also helps show the future injured service or civilian personnel that it can be done! I've seen my friend Ben McBean, who lost a leg above the knee and also his left arm, run a Marathon twice and reach Everest base camp! If he can do it, anyone else can!'
'These events have also shown me what pride and support our Forces have from our country and the British public. I didn't believe it until I saw it. Old, young, disabled and a mixture of all others from different backgrounds all pitching in to raise cash for H4H which inevitably help guys like me and many others. It's an honour to be involved in these events and challenges with H4H as you get to meet the people who, in a roundabout way, have helped fund your rehab! Amazing.’
Matt finishes; 'I’d like to say thanks to the Royal Marines and Help for Heroes in helping me get to where I am today and to all the British public chipping in to support such a great cause. Keep up the good work!'