In May 2007, Lance Corporal Jonathon ‘Frenchie’ Le Galloudec arrived in Basra for a six-month tour of duty alongside his friend, Corporal Rodney Wilson. In the early morning of 7 June, Frenchie and Rodney's patrol was part of an arrest and detain operation in the Al Atiyah district.
During the mission they came under attack and Frenchie was shot in the spine. “Initially it just felt like I'd been hit in the back by a sledgehammer,” he recalls. “It took me completely by surprise. During the rescue attempt, Rodney ran 50 or 60 feet under heavy fire to save me. He picked me up and started dragging me to safety. When we were about 20 feet from cover, I heard a massive thud and I fell to the ground. That's when I knew Rodney had been hit.”
Tragically Rodney died instantly, making the ultimate sacrifice so that his friend might live.
Frenchie was operated on at the field hospital at Basra Air Station. The bullet had struck his spine, ripping through his gut and a kidney. Later, he was flown to Birmingham's Selly Oak hospital and then transferred to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where he stayed for nearly three months.
Despite the doctors telling him he would never walk again, Frenchie took his first wobbly steps just two months after he was shot. He remembers: “The first time I walked I was in tears, my mum was in tears, even the nurses were in tears - I just didn't think it would ever happen for me.”
"I was told that I would always be in a wheelchair so walking out of the hospital, three months later, and proving them wrong, was one of the best days of my life."
He then spent 18 months at DMRC Headley Court, where he learnt how to walk again and adjusted to life as a wounded soldier: “The beauty of Headley Court was that no matter how badly your day was going, you would see someone who had no legs or who was badly burnt and you'd realise that everyone is struggling. Ultimately, we'd give each other hope.”
It would be all too easy to sink into a dark depression and lose control of your life. However, Frenchie pushes himself to be the best he can be, feeling he owes that much to Rodney: “The only way for me to honour Rodney's memory is to live my life to the full.”
In October 2009, Frenchie was part of a group of five wounded soldiers who took on the challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for Help for Heroes. After an arduous seven days, Frenchie and his fellow climbers reached the summit. “The conditions were freezing, with temperatures around 17 degrees below,” he describes. “It was such an emotional moment for me, as I realised that in so many ways I'd been able to overcome my disability. I thought learning to walk again was hard, but getting to the summit of Kilimanjaro was so much harder!”
To that end, Frenchie, along with his dad Steve, took on the epic challenge of climbing to Everest's Base Camp in November 2011, again raising money for Help for Heroes. "I really just want to raise awareness of the need for the public's continued support for our country's wounded soldiers. Also, if I can inspire even one wounded soldier to realise that being injured doesn't mean you have to stop living or doing the things you love, then I've done my job."
Frenchie didn’t stop there; he’s since competed in the 2013 Warrior Games in the US with 35 fellow wounded athletes as part of the Help for Heroes team. He was also part of the British Armed Forces team for the Invictus Games in 2014, where he won two bronze medals in swimming. He is also a valued member of the GB Sledge Hockey Team.