Britain’s most seriously injured Afghanistan veteran has released a book about defying all odds by not just surviving but thriving in order to thank those who saved his life.
"I never give up, basically. I had to do P Company seven b***** times so I'm not giving up."
Ben Parkinson MBE of suffered 37 injuries when his Land Rover hit a mine in Helmand Province in 2006, including brain damage, breaking his back and losing both legs. He was 22 years old.
The courageous 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery veteran, who dreamed of joining the British Army as a young boy, has revealed all in his autobiography 'Losing The Battle, Winning The War' which is out now.
Ben and his mother Diane spoke to BFBS, the Forces Station broadcasters Richard Hatch and Verity Geere about the book, the devastating day their lives turned upside down after the explosion and what motivates him to keep going despite all the hurdles he has to overcome.
WATCH: Ben and his mother Diane speak to Hatch and Geere on BFBS, the Forces Station.
How Did Ben Parkinson Become The Most Injured Veteran?
Ben cannot remember a thing from the day of the explosion because of the brain damage he suffered. Memories written about in his book are, in fact, from his friends who were there at the time. Diane, however, remembers the "terrible tour" and the traumatic day vividly, saying:
"Ben had phoned up that day and said that he was in Camp Bastion waiting for his flight home and we were all over the moon and then 6 o'clock at night, knock on the door and you could see through the door it was a guy in uniform.
"And we knew, you just know that you've got pain coming."
LISTEN: Ben and Diane talk about their new book 'Losing The Battle, Winning The War'.
Ben's road to recovery was far from straightforward. Diane describes the early days as being "absolute chaos" because the common practice was to send trauma cases to Selly Oak Hospital and head/spinal-injured patients to Queen Elizabeth Hospital but Ben "had got the whole lot". Due to many military hospitals being shut down, the NHS was expected to deal with injuries, Diane says "they couldn't possibly have any experience of". She said:
"It was a constant battle.
"You're constantly pushing against people who wanted to help but had no experience of these kinds of injuries."
What Motivates Ben To Keep Going?
After the explosion, doctors did not think Ben would survive but he went on to confound them all. He has taken on epic challenges like a 90-mile kayak in France, a trek through the Arctic and cycling across New Zealand, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for charities. He was awarded an MBE for his fundraising efforts in 2015. He also carried the Olympic torch in 2012 and was awarded the 'Overcoming Adversity Award' at The Millies back in 2008. But what motivates Ben to keep going? He said:
"I don’t have a choice.
"The lads died almost to save my life so for them I need to get better."
Diane continues by explaining that Ben doesn't want to waste the chance of life he was given the moment his friends saved him. However, his zest for life and inability to give up also comes from his military training. Being in the 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery taught him to persevere. Ben said:
"What didn't it teach me? I never give up basically.
"I had to do P Company seven b***** times so I'm not giving up."
Why Did Ben Write ‘Losing The Battle, Winning The War’?
It has been 15 years since the horrific explosion in Afghanistan that dramatically changed Ben's life forever. During that time, Ben has worked incredibly hard to defy all odds. The doctors did not think he would wake up from his injuries, let alone walk and talk. The inspirational veteran has written this book to thank everyone who risked their lives to save his and all who have worked closely with him every day since. Diane said:
"To let everybody know this incredible support that he'd had from his regiment, from his friends, from his charity, from The Pilgrims [Bandits] and to lay down that we couldn't have got here without the massive support that we've had from everybody."
The process of writing the book was, at times, quite eye-opening for mum Diane. She was not hearing the watered-down, mum-friendly version of events because her son was not the one telling her. It was, in fact, his mates who told the story and they did not hold back. She said:
"I learned things I didn’t know. Loads of stuff. We'll not go there and certainly not all of it made it into the book!"
Once Diane collated all the memories, she worked closely with author and journalist Jerome Starkey who wrote the book with her. They would present the memories to Ben and discuss them so he could express them in his own words. However, there were some memories he did not want his mother hearing. He laughs as he explains to Richard and Verity that perhaps his friends revealed too much about his time as a young man, saying:
"They saved my life and now they're stitching me up."
To learn more about Ben's life before the explosion and how he has consistently defied the odds ever since read his book, 'Losing The Battle, Winning The War', which can be purchased here now.
Cover image: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo/Danny Lawson.