Veteran blinded in Iraq to walk length of Britain for charity that helped him

An Iraq war veteran who was blinded by sniper fire while on a mission in Basra is walking the equivalent of the length of Britain to support the charity that helped him rebuild his life.

Simon Brown, 42,  was a corporal with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers when he was shot in the face as he led a successful mission to recover six stranded colleagues in Iraq in 2006.

The bullet entered his left cheek and exited the other side but Mr Brown was able to perform his own first aid for 25 minutes before his colleagues managed to get him to Basra Palace.

When he woke from an induced coma 17 days later in a Birmingham hospital, he had lost his left eye and was left with around 20% vision in his right eye.

Mr Brown, from Morley, West Yorkshire, also had to undergo several intensive operations to reconstruct his cheeks and nose.

Now he is taking on the challenge of walking the 1,406km (874 miles) between Land's End and John o' Groats to help Blind Veterans UK with two of his Leeds Rhinos Physical Disability Rugby League (PDRL) teammates and another friend.

The challenge is open to anyone who wants to help raise money for the charity.

Mr Brown said: "When I found out that I'd lost my sight, my world fell apart.

"I'd lost my career, I'd lost my job and I'd lost my future."

He said: "In my early days with Blind Veterans UK the education and peer support was invaluable.

"They built up my confidence and gave me support with the pragmatic things I needed to move forward.

"I learned how to use email again, I learned how to cook meals by myself, things most people take for granted."

Mr Brown said: "In 2006 I was told there were so many things I would never be able to do again. But, with support from Blind Veterans UK, I live on my own, I've got a job that I travel around the country for, and I'm a qualified rugby coach.

"Much of that is down to the skills that Blind Veterans UK taught me as well as the belief they instilled in me that anything was possible."

Simon will be joined by Dan Roberts, Tom Kaye and Roy Wilson.

Mr Roberts suffers from a rare form of muscular dystrophy and is an ambassador for Muscular Dystrophy UK.

Mr Kaye suffers from Crohn's disease and is an ambassador for Colostomy UK.

Due to Covid restrictions, they will be walking the distance in the Morley area.

They will begin on March 1 and plan to maintain a 45km-a-week pace in order to complete the distance within 69 days - on VE Day, May 8.

Mr Brown said: "My knees are getting knackered with age so it's going to get tough towards the end.

"I want to show people what's possible with a bit of hard work and dedication, even in difficult circumstances. And hopefully we can inspire some other blind veterans and the wider public to take on this challenge for Blind Veterans UK."

Blind Veterans UK's Land's End to John o' Groats virtual challenge starts on March 1 and entrants have until VE Day on May 8 to run, walk, cycle or swim the distance.

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