An inspirational former soldier who recovered from life-changing leg injuries caused by a horrific explosion in Afghanistan has spoken in Westminster about the charity that helped him get his life back.
Luke Wigman of Crescent Road, Selston, was serving with the Parachute Regiment on his second tour in Afghanistan in 2011 when he stepped on an undetected IED (improvised explosive device) and had his leg blown apart.
The 27-year-old told the Advertiser the explosive went off under his feet while he was on foot patrol in a compound in Sangin and the next thing he knew he was on the floor with sand everywhere.
He said: “I looked down and my trousers had been blown off and there was a big hole in my leg where you could see bone and the knee-cap.”
After seven surgeries to repair the damage and a year in rehabilitation learning to walk again, Luke was medically discharged from the Royal Air Force (RAF) as he did not regain full use of his leg.
The RAF Benevolent Fund stepped in to help him return to civilian life and the charity funded the driving licence courses he needed to start a new career with East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS).
He has also become an inspirational athlete and earlier this year risked sub-zero temperatures and polar bears to finish second in the North Pole Marathon.
Luke said: “I needed the money because I was not sure how long I was going to be out of work, and the Benevolent Fund made everything easier.”
The veteran was once again thrown into the spotlight when invited to speak at the RAF Benevolent Fund reception at Westminster last week.
Luke was the featured speaker at the reception held in the State Rooms of the Speaker’s House at Westminster. The reception focused on how the RAF Benevolent Fund is helping serving personnel and their families, as well as those transitioning back to civilian life after service.
In the audience were MPs and Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Mark Francois.
Luke said: “The event was all about raising awareness of what the fund does, and I was there because I could tell them first hand what happens and how they help people.
“I kept looking around the room and I couldn’t quite believe that I was a guest speaker there.”
The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund is the RAF’s leading welfare charity, providing financial, practical, and emotional support to both serving and former personnel.
Paul Hughesdon, RAF Benevolent Fund director of welfare and policy, said: “It was an honour for the RAF Benevolent Fund to assist Luke after his injury and we remain committed to providing additional support to all RAF personnel who have been injured whilst serving their country, whether in mind or body.”
RAF veterans can contact the Benevolent Fund by calling 0800 198 2400 or visit www.rafbf.org.