Dan was 19 on the 11th of September 2001 when the horrors of what he saw on the TV changed the course of his life. He was the eldest of three siblings and having no dad he grew up to be a protector, he was always the one to stand up to bullies and felt a compulsion to do something about the worst atrocity that had happened in many lifetimes. On the 12th September 2001, he took the bus to the army careers office in Brighton to join the army and in January 2002 he started Basic Training in January 2002.
The regiment Dan joined was 47th Regiment Royal Artillery (47 RA) as a high velocity missile operator, an anti-aircraft specialist. During his service with 47th Regiment he trained all over the UK, Canada and Germany. Dan was deployed to Cyprus in September 2002 to March 2003 as part of the United nations on a peacekeeping operation. In 2004, he was promoted to Lance Bombardier (Lance Corporal) and sent to Iraq in an infantry role in March 2005. After serving in Iraq Dan decided that he had seen enough and wanted to settle down and have a quiet life, so he signed off and left the army with an exemplary service record in April 2006.
After Dan left the army he went back into scaffolding as it was what he did for work before he joined the army. In March 2007, his son Ben was born and he landed a new job as a self-employed TV aerial and satellite engineer, Dan thought things were going fantastic at the time. It wasn't until later in his life that he realised he was taking stupid risks with his life which is common for guys with PTSD. Like running across rooftops without safety equipment and justifying it by trying to get the job done quicker without the safety equipment slowing him down. Or climbing up the outside of the scaffolding as the ladder was being used or too slow (He was a bit of a monkey then!). Dan could just push the nightmares about his experiences in Iraq to one side. Things took a turn for the worse in 2008 when the recession hit and he ended up in a lot of debt from the money he borrowed to get his business set up and in January 2009 because of the recession and because he missed the army like mad he took a trip to the army careers office again.
In 2010 Dan got married and his daughter Bella was born, he finally got back in the army in June 2010. He joined 2 Mercian in the light infantry role and while in 2 Mercian Dan trained all over the UK and Germany again but also in Kenya. He took part in intelligence and signals training and was promoted to Corporal. In September 2011, he was deployed out to the upper Gereshk Valley in the north of Helmand Province in Afghanistan. In March 2012, with just a couple of weeks left of the tour they deployed out to the north of their position in a final patrol but whilst out on the patrol they came under fire, naturally Dan dived for cover as he had been doing for the past 6 month. Dan had dodged the bullets again but unfortunately the bottom two disks in his back ruptured backwards into his spinal cord, to top it all off when Dan was laying in his hospital bed after being aeromeded back to the UK he found out that his wife had moved on with someone else.
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Dan came back to the UK a broken man, he had lost everything in one go. Dan had lost his wife, home, children and had a life changing injury. Dan like so many of his brothers-in-arms turned to alcohol, he even came close to suicide. Luckily for him he met Sarah who helped to pull him back from the brink and things started to look up again. He had made a good recovery and it looked like he might have been able to get back in to the ranks but had been left with right leg weakness due to nerve damage. The nightmares and anxiety had been steadily getting worse over the years and Sarah was the first-person Dan had spoken to about them and she convinced him to seek help. Dan was diagnosed with PTSD and started to receive treatment. His youngest son Harry was born in July 2014 and all was going to be ok.
In November 2014 his right leg gave way due to the nerve damage in his spinal cord and he fell down the stairs at home, the fall had exacerbated his injury and put him in a wheelchair, he could hardly move at all. After discectomy and laminectomy surgeries as well a year and a half of intensive physiotherapy and hydrotherapy at Headley Court he was out of the wheelchair and able to walk around with just a walking stick. In September 2015 Dan married his amazing wife Sarah and on June the 1st 2016 he was medically discharged from the army.
Because of the treatment needed for his back injury the treatment needed for PTSD was sporadic, in fact he admits he did avoid getting treatment for the PTSD as he feared it. Dan had his own ways of dealing with the PTSD and that was mainly locking it in a box in the back of his mind and never talking about it. The treatment required him to talk about it in depth repeatedly to desensitise him to it and there is only so much you can desensitise to the horrors that some soldiers witness whilst serving in warzones. Over the years, Dan found the more he tried to stuff it away in the box the more it escaped out of the box.
In October 2016 Deptherapy took Dan to Egypt to teach him how to scuba dive and take his PADI Open water course, Dan said being in the warm water was incredible and he was so free to move because his back muscles which are in spasm most of the time relaxed and Dan found watching the fish extremely therapeutic. Unfortunately, Dan experienced anxiety and flashbacks whilst in Egypt as it reminded him so much of Iraq. Dan told us something clicked inside of him, he said he had been given this amazing opportunity that not many people get but was unable to fully enjoy it due to his issues. Dan decided that he had to finally fight it after suffering for 11 years, as soon as he got back from Egypt he contacted Combat Stressand the National Health Service (NHS) for help. Dan is currently having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy through the NHS and he is awaiting a slot on a 6-week course with Combat Stress.
Dan has been on quite a journey since he joined the army in 2002, he had some highs and some very deep lows. Dan had been feeling very lost after leaving the army and Deptherapy have given him something to look forward to. Deptherapy are taking him to Egypt in May 2017 to increase his diving experience and education by taking his PADI Advanced open water and deep diver. They've also been very supportive to him through his cognitive behaviour therapy, Dan says he really does owe Deptherapy a lot (although they'll say otherwise!) and he hopes to be able to give back and help the charity in any way he can in the future.