Duncan is rebuilding his life after sustaining physical and psychological injuries on active service. Help for Heroes is proud to be supporting Duncan in his recovery, working in partnership with the MoD and the Royal British Legion as part of the Defence Recovery Capability.
Duncan Green joined the Army at the tender age of 18 in 1999 and during his 11 years of active service deployed to Canada, the Falkland’s and the Middle East. However, his time in the army came to an abrupt end in the summer of 2010 when he was seriously injured whilst deployed on active service.
Suddenly, Duncan was facing a long road back from devastating injuries to his back, spine and legs. He explains: “Whilst I was lying in a hospital bed unable to move anything from the waist down, I thought my life was over. I had no idea how I going to be able to do anything again.”
There were many times during his recovery that he wanted to give up. But Duncan drew inspiration from those he was recovering alongside to keep him going. A turning point for him was finding out about the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre, Phoenix House, in Catterick. “Since I have been at the Recovery Centre I have achieved more, and made more progress, than I had done in the previous 14 months. I have fully enjoyed my time and instead of dwelling on the past I’m now excited about the future.
“When you are away from your friends and unit because of injury, you start to feel disengaged, isolated and become withdrawn. The centre takes all those negative feelings away. I found that being able to spend time talking to other people who are going through the same as you makes all the difference.”
Spending time at Phoenix House helped Duncan deal with not only his physical scars but also the psychological wounds he was also living with too. He explains: “It’s thanks to the wonderful staff at Phoenix House and their positive attitude. No matter who you are or what your injuries are they looked at the person and how they can help them as an individual.”
Duncan’s biggest battle was still to come though, as nothing could prepare him for the void that was left by his discharge from the military. “Moving back home and away from my military life was so hard and at times I felt so alone that I would just shut myself away from the world. There were days when I just didn’t want to see or talk to anyone.”
It took a lot of hard work on Duncan’s part, but slowly he started trying to engage with life again. He still missed everything about being in the military but knew he needed to try to move on if he was ever going to get better.
One of the things he did to help heal his mind was to open up to his new civilian friends about his problems and issues. It was during one of these conversations that someone suggested he get a tattoo, and that’s exactly what he did. He explains: “My tattoo honours everyone in the military who didn’t come home. Whenever I’m feeling low all I have to do is look at my leg and it makes me realise how lucky I am to be here and how I should be doing everything I can to make a life for myself.”
Now that he had come to terms with the loss of his military career, Duncan once again turned to Help for Heroes to help him look to the future. This time it was through cricket, Duncan explains: “Sport was always a massive part of my life before I was hurt and to be able to continue this even with my injuries gave me a new lease of life.”
Duncan, alongside his Cricket team, strode onto the pitch at the world-famous Kia Oval in September 2015, in a jubilant display of the power of sport to transform lives. Playing against the England Disability Team as part of the Cricket for Heroes fundraising Event Duncan was amazed at the response, saying: “So many people came out in support for our injured servicemen and woman and that left a lasting impression and a lump in my throat. Without these wonderful people who give up their time to raise money and support us, I’m sure many of us would not be able to have the lives we do now.”
Duncan has come a long way from the hopeless man lying in a hospital bed thinking his life was over, he explains: “I couldn’t have been more wrong, my life was just starting and I was going to go on do things I never thought would be possible.”