A FORMER soldier who took his own life after battling post-traumatic stress disorder had told how being under fire for 55 days non-stop led to him constantly looking for a buzz when he returned home to Co Down.
Brett Savage was buried in Newtownards on Friday, having been found dead in his home the previous weekend.
Four years ago the 32-year-old told Sunday Life of the horrors he experienced in Afghanistan prior to his retirement on medical grounds.
In a searingly honest Remembrance Sunday interview, Brett said: "My unit was under fire for 55 days. It was non-stop. I saw good men killed. We lost four in total.
"I was blown up with an RPG and lost the hearing in my right ear. I was also shot in the chest - it was the body armour that saved my life."
Brett joined the Royal Irish 1st Battalion in 2005 before being medically discharged five years later.
He explained: "I saw a lot of f****d up s**t. When I came home I went crazy. I was on drugs, drinking all the time, constantly looking for a buzz.
"The army really f****d me over. They stopped paying me. They even sent my medals home with my mate."
Brett finally got his life back on track after being told about the Beyond the Battlefield charity, which works with ex-soldiers.
He added: "If it wasn't for Beyond the Battlefield, I'd be dead in a ditch or in jail."
Robert 'Rab' McCartney, who runs the Newtownards-based organisation, paid tribute to tragic Brett, describing him as a "very special man".
He joked with mourners: "As you all know, Brett was a very special man in many ways and he was also a lunatic in many ways.
"Everybody in here has been touched by him in some way and will continue to be touched by him."
Mr McCartney also thanked friends of Brett who helped him when he returned from Afghanistan, saying: "One got him a car, another got him a washing machine and they all clubbed together to help him, so he was never alone. And he knew he was never alone because he always had these guys."
In an interview with the BBC in the days after their son's death, Brett's devastated parents Noel and Dolores Savage accused the Ministry of Defence of doing nothing to help their son.
"We are totally and utterly heartbroken," said Dolores. "He was my world. He would've done anything for anyone, he was so kind."
"All the Army do is count Brett like a number," added Noel.
"When he came back (from war) with the problems, I wouldn't let him go back and all they wanted to do was get him back, so he ended up going AWOL.
"He just couldn't fathom his demons that he carried - and he carried them big-time. Unfortunately, they got him in the end. We thought he was okay. He did say he would never do what he did."