Prince Harry makes surprise appearance on Car S.O.S to send message to disabled veteran
The Duke of Sussex has described a disabled veteran as “the definition of inspiration” during a surprise TV appearance.
Former Lance Corporal Stephan Van Niekerk from Taunton in Somerset, joined 3rd Battalion, the Rifles, at the age of 21.
Seven years later, in 2009, he was hit by an improvised explosive device and lost his left leg at the hip, his right leg below the knee, and five fingers.
On Thursday, an episode of the National Geographic renovation show Car S.O.S saw Mr Van Niekerk have his Jeep Grand Cherokee taken in for persistent mechanical problems.
After an impressive restoration of the vehicle was revealed, the 36-year-old got one final surprise in the form of a video message from Prince Harry.
"I hope at this point you’re sitting in your brand new, or certainly what looks like a brand new Jeep," the Duke said.
“Good on you mate, well done, fully, fully, fully deserved. I can’t think of anyone that deserves this more than you.
“After getting injured at such a young age after two tours of Afghanistan, you are the definition of inspiration because you are not defined by your injury. You are defined by your selflessness to others, to your community, and your inspirational talks to young people.
“And, of course, to your four kids, and your amazing wife Sadie, who no doubt has got you this far. So full respect, well done you."
The Duke, who recorded the clip last year at his home in the US, was a battlefield air controller when he first went on a 10-week tour of duty in 2007 fighting the Taliban in Helmand province.
He then retrained and qualified as an Apache helicopter pilot and in September 2012, he returned to Afghanistan for a second time.
Mr Van Niekerk was medically discharged after he stepped on an IED in Sangin while on his second tour of Afghanistan in 2009.
With the support of his wife and Army rehabilitation, he has reinvented himself as a motivational speaker for Blesma, The Limbless Veterans charity.
He is now planning a cycle from Canada to Mexico to raise money for the charity.
In his message, Prince Harry said: "I heard, someone told me, that you’re planning to cycle from Canada to Mexico – just a mere 2,745 miles, I think.
“Good luck with that, I know you’re going to do it, I know you’re going to smash it. I know you’re going to raise a lot of money for Blesma as well.
"Other than that, mate, just a huge congratulations. And thank you, thank you for your service. Thank you for your continued service and commitment to others.
“I’m sure your whole family is incredibly proud of you. I’m proud of you. We’re all proud of you… there’s a reason you were chosen for this. So yeah, saddle up and enjoy your new wheels. And then make sure that you get as fit as you can for this next huge adventure that’s coming your way and then you can smash that.
“And at the end of that, I would love to meet you even if it’s over Zoom, but yeah, full respect, mate. Well done, love it and catch you soon, cheers.”
The Jeep was restored by presenters Tim Shaw and Fuzz Townshend to competition-level standards, modified for disabilities, and has a roll cage, high lift axle kit and wheel arch extensions as well as having the suspension upgraded.
Mr Van Niekerk's best friend Ian and wife Sadie said they wanted to reward him for his bravery and positivity by fulfilling his ambition to become an off-road driving champion with his used 2002 car.
He said Harry’s message was “insane” and he could not believe he was talking about him.
This episode of Car S.O.S will be repeated on National Geographic on Sunday March 26 at 7pm.