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  1. Catherine Peel

Afghanistan: Shahnaz Hakim's Story

Just a week ago, the last UK troops in Afghanistan handed over Camp Bastion to the local army, marking the end of British combat operations in the country. As the last Welsh troops begin their journey home and we prepare to remember all those who have lost their lives in conflict, we hear the very personal stories of people in Wales whose lives have been forever changed by the war in Afghanistan.

Wales This Week: The War That Changed My Life tonight at 8pm

Shahnaz Hakim, fled Afghanistan in 2011 with her husband and son. Credit: Shahnaz Hakim

Shahnaz Hakim fled to the UK from Afghanistan in 2011 after she started to receive death threats from the Taliban. She left everything behind and arrived in London with nothing. She is now building a home in Cardiff with her husband and 16 year-old son, who is currently studying in college. She still misses home terribly but, she says, she cannot go back as the threat for her life is still there.

Before the Taliban regime, Shahnaz led a very successful life. She worked as an English Language teacher and supported women in their plight to receive education, something which, was banned under Taliban rule.

Shahnaz Hakim received death threats from the Taliban Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Once the Afghanistan War started, Shahnaz helped the war effort and found work helping the US Embassy. She dedicated her time to many aid projects particularly those in female education. She worked for Unicef, the British Red Cross in Afghanistan, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), UNHCR as a coordinator for the monitoring of Unicef projects. With the IRC she worked as a female team leader focussing on female education and building the capacity of women. In more recent years she worked for US Aid, under the US Embassy. Here she was a project manager for education, working directly with the ministries, contractors, and travelling into the field.

I had to leave, and leave everything behind and come here. The type of work which I was doing was for female education, and supporting female. And I was receiving several threats. One time I was speaking with uhh my neighbour from my balcony. And usually I’m not putting a scarf when I’m at home as you see me now. I didn’t know that.. I didn’t realise that I should have put my scarf and I was peeping like this with my neighbour that a bullet shot hit the balcony wall. And I didn’t know that someone shot on me. I didn’t know this. The kids, the children from the ground from downstairs, they called on me and they told me ‘Aunty go inside, that person with the machine gun is shooting on you’, and he had the machine gun like this to hit another one....I think someone did not like me to work with foreigners. In the supporting women’s education. Because I have challenged myself several times, and when I thought that the last minute I, I decided to give up. I didn’t give up at the very beginning but, one time I arrived and I couldn’t continue.

– Shahnaz Hakim

To hear more from Shahnaz and others as they tell their stories of the Afghanistan war, tune in to Wales This Week: The War That Changed My Life tonight at 8pm

Afghanistan: Sgt (Rtd) Rachel Pompa

Just a week ago, the last UK troops in Afghanistan handed over Camp Bastion to the local army, marking the end of British combat operations in the country. As the last Welsh troops begin their journey home and we prepare to remember all those who have lost their lives in conflict, we hear the very personal stories of people in Wales whose lives have been forever changed by the war in Afghanistan.

Rachel Pompa, nee McDonald, was an RAF paramedic on the frontline.

RAF Paramedic Deployed to Afghanistan 2006 and 2007 Credit: Rachel Pompa

Rachel would work as part of the Medical Emergency Repsonse Team (MERT). She had a rota of 1 in 3 for the MERT duties, the other shifts would cover A+E in the hospital.

As soon as the call came in we would get our kit straight on. Straight into the ambulance. The Medical Emergency Response Team was a small team. We would drive straight down to the helicopter pad onto the Chinook. Make sure all the kit was strapped on. Get ourselves ready and literally wait for the air crew to take off, which was always immediately...We came back from a few missions where there would be bullet holes in the side of the aircraft so I am extremely grateful for the chinook and it’s capabilities.

– Rachel Pompa

In 2007 Rachel won an award for Paramedic of The Year after she coordinated a mass casualty incident.

We were faced with 24 casualties at one time. There was a mass incident we were called to...we were required to go out into Helmand onto the ground and assess the situation and see what had happened. So we went as per routine onto the back of the helicopter, flew out and landed on, in quite a hostile area. As the paramedic on that day, it was my responsibility to go off the helicopter and fully assess. I went off the back of the helicopter, there were casualties everywhere so it was quite hard to organise it really...I think at the time I had 7 casualties to look after ranging from a priority one, which is life threatening and to a priority 3 then. So it was non stop you know, running to and from the helicopter making sure I was doing the best for everyone.

– Rachel Pompa

For more on Rachel's story and to hear other stories from the Afghanistan War, tune into Wales This Week: The War That Changed My Life tonight at 8pm.

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Afghanistan: Thea Davies' story

Just a week ago, the last UK troops in Afghanistan handed over Camp Bastion to the local army, marking the end of British combat operations in the country.

As the last Welsh troops begin their journey home and we prepare to remember all those who have lost their lives in conflict, tonight we hear the very personal stories of people in Wales whose lives have been forever changed by the war in Afghanistan.

Wales This Week: The War That Changed My Life tonight at 8pm

For Thea Davies, Afghanistan was the war that killed her partner, Captain Stephen James Healey.

Captain Stephen James Healey, of 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh. Credit: Thea Davies

Captain Stephen James Healey, 29, from Cardiff, was the commander of the Combined Force Burma reconnaissance platoon.

He was killed two years ago when his vehicle struck an IED during a vehicle patrol in the North of the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand Province.

During his first tour of Afghanistan, he and his men drove over an IED whilst conducting a vehicle patrol. Luckily everyone was okay and looking forward to the next tour in 2012.

On May 26th 2012, whilst conducting a vehicle patrol in the North of the Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand Province, Captain Stephen James Healey’s vehicle struck an IED.

His parents turned up at the door and I actually saw them pull up and looked at their faces, I knew that something was up. I just, in that split second of walking to the door, hoped that they were going to say that he was injured.

But his dad looked at me and I knew he wasn’t injured and he said he was dead... and that was it.

My life has not been the same since that moment. It was my other half, it was someone I was planning a future with. We had just bought a house, we were going to get married and have children in our 30s and you know I am coming up to 32 now and that is not happening and he is not here and I have not seen him in over two-and-a-half years.

– Thea Davies
Captain Stephen James Healey was the 415th soldier to die in Afghanistan. Thea decided to run 415 miles to raise money in his memory for those affected by war. Credit: Thea Davies

Hear Thea's story along with others in Wales This Week: The War That Changed My Life tonight at 8pm.

  1. Catherine Peel

Afghanistan: Fusilier Shaun Stocker's story

Just a week ago, the last UK troops in Afghanistan handed over Camp Bastion to the local army, marking the end of British combat operations in the country. As the last Welsh troops begin their journey home and we prepare to remember all those who have lost their lives in conflict, we hear the very personal stories of people in Wales whose lives have been forever changed by the war in Afghanistan.

Wales This Week: The War That Changed My Life tonight at 8pm

1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, Deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Many say 2009 marked the start of particularly harsh tour. They say it suffered more casualties and deaths than any other of any 6 month tour in Afghanistan.

Fusilier Shaun Stocker (24), 1st Batallion The Royal Welsh, deployed to Afghanistan in 2009. He was part of Operation MOSHTARAK, an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) pacification offensive in the town of Marja), Helmand Province, Afghanistan. It involved 15,000 American, Afghan, Canadian, Estonian, Danish and British troops and constituted the largest joint operation of the War in Afghanistan) up to that point and aimed to remove the Taliban from Marja and eliminate the last Taliban stronghold in central Helmand Province.

We found IEDs daily and getting contacted pretty much every other time we’re going out on the ground.

– Fusilier Shaun Stocker

On April 4th 2010, just six days before Shaun was due to end his tour and head home, he was assigned to go out on one last op. The troop were in two minds about heading out that morning as pooor visibility from a sandstorm could make them an easy Taliban ambush target. But, the storm cleared and they set off with Shaun taking the lead as frontman.

Shaun lost both legs above the knee and lost his left eye after being blown up by an IED. Credit: Shaun Stocker

I had a vallon, I was front man of my multiple. And it picks up these metal traces, you know, but there are IEDs with no metal content in so they don’t pick them all up...It must have 100, 200 metres from the PB [patrol base] that I stood on the IED. I didn’t know what went on for a few minutes, felt like I was in a dream...From that point I was in and out of consciousness. I just remember little bits you know, little bits of that. the last I remembered was getting put onto a stretcher and getting carried into the chopper. And then I was an induced coma for the next 6 weeks.

– Fusilier Shaun Stocker

Shaun lost both legs above the knee, lost his left eye. He was blind in his right eye for about a year and a half, until he could have an operation to get 30% of that sight back. He lost his little finger, suffered shrapnel wounds and dislocated his left shoulder after the blast pulled the vallon he was holding and his arm out of it’s socket. Out of all of his injuries he says that his arm was the worse pain he felt.

Four years later Shaun is still in the army until he finishes his rehabilitation. He currently wears prosthetics limbs above the knee on both sides. In December he is heading to Australia for an operation which, will hopefully mean that he will be able to walk on prosthetic limbs without the sockets which, currently cause him a lot of pain through rubbing. Titanium rods will be put into what he has left of his legs so he can then, in the future, connect his prosthetic limbs to his actual legs. He hopes that this will help him achieve a more active lifestyle.

For more on Shaun's story and to hear from others who's lives have been changed by the war in Afghanistan tune in to Wales This Week: The War That Changed My Life tonight at 8pm.

Afghanistan: Lt Col. (Rtd) Stewart Hill's Story

Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Hill - Deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 and 2009 Credit: Stewart Hill

Just a week ago, the last UK troops in Afghanistan handed over Camp Bastion to the local army, marking the end of British combat operations in the country. As the last Welsh troops begin their journey home and we prepare to remember all those who have lost their lives in conflict, we hear the very personal stories of people in Wales whose lives have been forever changed by the war in Afghanistan.

Wales This Week: The War That Changed My Life, tonight at 8pm.

On the 4th July 2009, Lt Col (Rtd) Stewart Hill of B Coy 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, was left with his life hanging in danger. Stewart was the company commander and was leading his troops as part of Operation Panther’s Claw, the biggest UK ground offensive of the War. His lead armoured vehicle accompanying his HQ group was hit by a rocket propelled grenade killing Private Robbie Laws (18) instantly and wounding several others.

My last memory of Afghanistan is watching the helicopter, the chinook helicopter fly away to the right with the bodies of my soldiers.

– Lt Col. Stewart Hill

Whilst a helicopter evacuated the casualties Stewart and his HQ moved away from the landing ground, Lance Corporal David Dennis (29) stepped on an IED. He was also killed instantly.

It devastated my tactical headquarters. It knocked my sergeant major unconscious, knocked my forward air controller unconscious - he’s got permanent nerve damage to his left arm - it knocked my company signaller unconscious, it knocked me - the blast punctured both ear drums and the shrapnel from the blast smacked into the back of my skull. The blast threw me and apparently I was found about 20 metres away, 15 give or take. In a foetal position. It was my staff major who came out of his unconscious state and he said that he found me and he thought I was dead. He tried to wake me up but he couldn’t. But then I started to come round and I was in a foetal position with with a radio antenna embedded into the back of my skull.

– Stewart Hill

Stewart suffered a traumatic brain injury and has been unable to work ever since. He says he now struggles with the simplest of things and is now learning to live with that for the rest of his life.

For more on Stewarts's story tune in to -

Wales This Week: The War That Changed My Life, tonight at 8pm.

  1. Catherine Peel

Afghanistan: Sgt (Rtd) Jon Bevan's Story

Just a week ago, the last UK troops in Afghanistan handed over Camp Bastion to the local army, marking the end of British combat operations in the country. As the last Welsh troops begin their journey home and we prepare to remember all those who have lost their lives in conflict, we hear the very personal stories of people in Wales whose lives have been forever changed by the war in Afghanistan.

Wales This Week: The War That Changed My Life tonight at 8pm

Sgt (Rtd) Jon Bevan deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 and 2009 Credit: Jon Bevan

Sgt (Rtd) Jon Bevan, a former MOD cameraman, deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 and 2009. As a cameraman, he tried to catch as true a picture as possible in order to reflect the war back home in the UK. In order to do this, he had to be right on the soldier’s shoulders - often putting himself in danger.

Afghanistan is unlike any other place I have ever visited in my life. One minute I could be there as a photographer experiencing an absolute beautiful sunrise over the hills up in the Kajaki mountains. Taking pictures of silhouettes... and then the next minute the silence is broken with the sound of an RPG fired at you over the head and then literally the next hour there is absolutely mayhem. Machine gun fire, F15s swooping down, 500lb bombs being dropped. All in the space of an hour - and then there is the silence again and then you are back for breakfast just chatting about what has just happened.

– Jon Bevan

But, he says, the hardest part was meeting and filming soldiers as they go about their daily duties and then being told he has to film their funerals soon after.

I have been to so many military funerals - I’m talking hundreds - and the last post, to me, it fills me with an awful lot of emotion. I just feel overcome with emotions for all the people that I have photographed - and guilt, because I have survived and they haven’t.

– Jon Bevan

He says the fighting had dramatically changed shape by the time he deployed to his second tour.

I suppose when I look at Afghanistan, my first tour out there in 2007 as a photographer, the fighting was very kinetic - they wanted to take you on. Literally, in some instances, it would be hand-to-hand and the fighting would be in such close proximity, the soldiers even had bayonets fixed to their weapons. When I went back to Afghanistan in 2009, the schematics of the war fighting had completely changed because they resorted then to dirty tactics. The Taliban weren’t taking you on in a direct fight - they were now just planting IEDs.

– Jon Bevan

Hear the rest of Jon's story with others who have either served or lost loved ones due to the war in Afghanistan on Wales This Week: The War That Changed My Life - tonight at 8pm.

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