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Saturday 22 May 2021

Bluey's from Iraq: Simon Brown and Warren Ward

Posted by: Help For Heroes

Its edges are a bit worn after 15 years, it’s creased from having been read so many times and it’s stained with tears but the contents of the letter are a priceless bond between two war heroes who both cheated death in Iraq.

It’s 10 years since the last British troops withdrew from the warzone but both veterans face lifelong mental and physical scars from the impact.

Simon Brown was a corporal with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers when he was shot in the face by an enemy sniper as he led a successful mission to recover six stranded colleagues in 2006.

Warren Ward was the driver of his Warrior armoured vehicle that day who managed to get Si to safety but feared the worst.

For Si, the blue military airmail, known as a Bluey, that he dictated to his mum from his intensive care bed, was a show of incredible strength to his comrades and for Warren, the letter stopped him after twice contemplating suicide.

The bullet that hit Si, shot through his left cheek and out the other side, narrowly missing his brain which would have proved fatal. He is now blind in one eye and has 20 per cent vision in the other.

When he woke from a 17-day induced coma in Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, Warren was one of the people he wanted to thank for helping him to survive that day.

Si said: “I thought, if you heard it from me, it might give you a bit of a lift and if I am able to dictate a Bluey, then hopefully…At the time I was under the impression that I was going to be completely blind for the rest of my life.

"My heart had been ripped out and I was absolutely distraught but I could not write to you saying, “I am distraught, I have lost my sight, that’s it I’m done.” I had to say, somehow, “look guys, keep going” and that was the best way I thought to do it.

“In the past 10 years I don’t think the public has forgotten about us, but I think the media has. We are still here. We may not be at war but military personnel are still getting hurt and will need support for 30 or 40 years from injuries attributable to service that happened in 30 to 40 seconds of chaos.”

 

Si Brown

As a Help for Heroes Ambassador, Si, 42, from Morley in West Yorkshire is an active member of the charity’s fellowship group and has trekked across the Sahara Desert and the Costa Rican Jungle. He is also a player-coach for Leeds Rhinos in the Physical Disability Rugby League.

Warren, 50, from Winsford in Cheshire, was nearly killed just a few months after Si on the same tour of duty in Iraq when he was hit by shrapnel from a mortar which penetrated his spine. The corporal in the 1st Battalion the Kings Regiment suffered tetraplegia and used a mechanical wheelchair he operated with his chin but he is now able to walk again.

“Sometimes people give me strange looks when I’m walking because my body can spasm but I just think, you don’t know what I’ve been through,” he explained.

“I’m glad I know Si as he put me in touch with Help for Heroes. Once you are injured in the military it can be a case of you are out of sight and out of mind. You don’t get looked after when you are broken.”

Warren added: “I know it’s only a little blue envelope but if I did not have this letter I could have committed suicide twice, with no trouble. When I was down, I was in that dark place and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get out of it.

"Things weren’t going right with my marriage, my life, or my health and everything almost got on top of me so I got my letter out and I read it.

“I don’t get it out so much nowadays because I know in my own mind how to cope. In the first line I’d start to get a lump in my throat and then half-way down I’d get a tear. It has got tear marks on it. But now I celebrate it.”