Simon grew up in Morley, West Yorkshire, and joined the Army in 1997. On his third tour of Iraq in 2006 with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, he was called to rescue a stranded vehicle with a crew of six on board following an insurgent attack. During the extraction, as the vehicle pulled away, he was shot in the face by a sniper.
Simon recalls: “My palate collapsed and I couldn’t breathe so I had to put my thumb in my mouth to hold it up and keep my airway open all the way back to base. I was fortunate that the bullet didn’t knock me out.”
The convoy rushed Simon back to Basra Palace and within 48 hours he was airlifted back to the UK for an emergency tracheotomy at Selly Oak Hospital, which saved his life. Waking up from a coma 17 days later on Christmas Eve, Simon learnt that the damage to his face was worse than he could have imagined: He had lost his left eye, had only partial sight in the other and had lost his nasal cartilage.
In the last 10 years, Simon has undergone 20 operations, totalling well over 100 hours of surgery, and is expecting more to come. He has always been determined to help others through his experiences and regularly gives motivational talks in schools and does a significant amount of work for charities like Help for Heroes, which he says has played a big role in his recovery: “H4H made me realise I might have a purpose in life. Without charities like this, so many blokes like me would be stuck.”
An active member of the Charity’s fellowship group the Band of Brothers, Simon has gone on to complete treks across the Sahara Desert and the Costa Rican jungle. He also helped Marston’s brewery create Help for Heroes’ very own ale.
Simon now works with Blind Veterans UK, helping to find Veterans of all ages who are looking for support. He has spoken at the GQ Men of the Year Awards and to the England rugby team before the 2012 Six Nations. He’s even carried the Olympic torch in 2012, which he describes as: “The culmination of the hard work I have done to rebuild my life.
“Despite my disabilities, I have found the confidence to travel alone around the country doing my job. This confidence I have gained through support from organisations like Help for Heroes”.