My View, Ben Parkinson - Celebrating day I was reborn

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On Friday it was my eighth anniversary.

Eight years to the day from what should have been my very last day.

My mum always talks about 9/11 and the fact that she was at work when the first plane flew into the Twin Towers.

At first everyone thought it was a terrible accident but gradually it became clear what was actually happening. She says that even on that day all she can remember thinking was, ‘Ben will be at war’.

I was 17 at the time and at Harrogate Foundation College.

Well, a couple of years later, I was at war in Iraq. I was in the first Allied vehicle across the border.

But it wasn’t that war that got me of course. It was Afghanistan, and not on 9/11 but on 9/12.

For some of the injured lads, the day of their anniversary is very difficult.

I have always thought that there was a decision to be made.

You can either sit at home and think ‘my life is been ruined’ and ‘why me?’.

Or you can pick yourself up and say ‘well, that could’ve been worse, I’m still here and I’m not going to let this ruin the rest of my life’.

Especially when you’ve lost friends and lads from your own regiment you have to realise just how lucky you are.

If you watched any of the Invictus Games, you will have seen soldiers from all over the world who have made the decision to carry on and grabbed the rest of their life. No self-pity on show there.

So my anniversary is always time for a big party.

Last year I went to Turkuaz restaurant and had a huge cake in the shape of a big, black bomb – complete with fuse and big firework!

A lot of people in the restaurant looked horrified but I thought it was a brilliant joke. I also had a troupe of belly dancers there... but they turned out to be men so we’d better not say too much about that.

This year I went with the charity to Doncaster Races.

I may not be very up on horses but the food was magnificent and I made sure to sample plenty!

I even got to meet jockey Frankie Dettori. I’m afraid I disgraced myself though, because all I could think to say to him was ‘how small are you?’.

I also use my anniversary to look at all the positive things that have happened – the challenges I have been able to do, the improvements in walking and talking, and the schools I have been able to visit as part of the charity work.

I try not to forget that I had 22 brilliant years before this happened and, although there were a couple of bad ones in the middle, I’m going to have lots more just as good.

And it’s also good to be able to tell people that you’re eight, not 30.

* Ben Parkinson, Doncaster’s Afghanistan war hero