Belfast Telegraph

Hero soldier Bryan Phillips insists fundraiser cash for him is given over to other injured veterans

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By Rachel Martin

Some of our toughest Army veterans are banding together to cycle the length of Ireland to raise cash for a Carrickfergus soldier who lost his legs in a bomb blast in Afghanistan.

But, in a selfless gesture, Lance Corporal Bryan Phillips says he won't accept the money, and instead wants to take part to raise funds to help injured comrades.

Bryan was on his second tour of Afghanistan in June 2012 when his battalion came under fire from Taliban fighters. An explosive device planted by them took both his legs.

The 31-year-old had been on tour for three months and was on a foot patrol when he was caught up in the blast.

Bryan realised both legs were gone and an arm was hurt, yet incredibly he managed to get his own first aid kit out to treat himself until medics arrived.

He joined the Irish Guards aged just 19, and has also served in Iraq.

Since his life-changing injuries he has parachuted out of a plane, gone skiing - and hopes to compete in the Paralympics.

He has worked relentlessly to raise money to help others, particularly disabled and disadvantaged children.

Not wanting his injuries to hold him back, Bryan paid £80,000 to undergo pioneering surgery in Australia in September 2015.

He became the first person from here to receive Osseointegration, state-of-the-art surgery that saw a metal attachment inserted into his femur.

The operation is not available in the UK.

"I have a young son, so to me life goes on. I make the most of life and don't let anything get in the way of it just because I've lost my legs," he said.

Bryan added that, despite his injuries, he was still proud to have joined the Army.

"A lot of people say: 'You must regret joining the Army now'. But I don't - I knew what I was signing up to and I would do it all again.

"Before it happened I had helped to treat colleagues who had the same thing happen."

Soon after he lost his legs he began a painstaking two-year process to learn to walk again.

"It was one of the hardest things I've done in my life," he added.

"The carbon fibre socket was always chafing - you can only wear the prosthetics for so long, maybe a couple of hours at a time, and then you need to go back to a wheelchair to rest. Now I can walk around like anyone else.

"It feels more natural and I haven't had to use a wheelchair at all in the last year-and-a-half."

The effects of the surgery were life-changing, and now his friends from the Guards have vowed to help raise some of the money Bryan paid for the operation.

But Bryan is insistent that the money should instead go to help others.

The group will be led by Major Burt Smith - who has survived cancer - and will cycle from Mizen Head, Co Cork, to Malin Head, Co Donegal - a journey of 360 miles.

They will leave Belfast on Saturday and hope to reach Malin Head six days later.

Despite losing his legs, Bryan will make the journey on a specialised hand-bike donated by Help For Heroes.

With just three days to go until the group leaves, Bryan says he is looking forward to the challenge.

"It's not the distance I'm worried about. I know I'll be okay on the flat and might even be able to overtake some of the other guys, but the hills will be a struggle - it's a lot slower on the hand-bike.

"I didn't want to become known as someone who just feels sorry for themselves. Some people are happy to just stay in a wheelchair because for many it's the easier option, but I didn't want that. It was always my decision to have the operation, so I'm happy to pay for it.

"I want the money to go to the Irish Guards Benevolent Fund for other people and then that way it's there for anyone who needs it."

The father of a soldier killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq has criticised Government proposals to reduce legal protections for British troops.

New plans would prevent service personnel from suing the Ministry of Defence for negligence, leaving decisions about compensation to an MoD-appointed assessor.

Colin Redpath, who fought for five years to sue the MoD over the death of his son, Lance Corporal Kirk Redpath, said the proposals were unfair.

"At the end of the day they (the MoD) are an employer. The fire brigade, the police, the Ambulance Service, they all have to go out with equipment that works. And the right equipment. That should be the same for a soldier," he said. "If not, then what the MoD are saying is that we could send our boys and girls out with broomsticks."

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