Amputee veteran rewarded for helping othersBy Tim Harris
February 25, 2013
A DOUBLE-amputee Army veteran from Farnborough is to receive an award in recognition of his work helping other limbless ex-servicemen.
Paul Burns, of Union Street, will be presented with the Bowman Award at the annual Soldiering On Awards in London, on March 23.
Paul, 51, was nominated by the British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association (BLESMA), of which he has been a member for nearly 35 years.
The award is specifically for those who have given training and support to help individuals overcome grievous injuries.
Paul said: “It is a great honour to be put forward for the award. I am very proud and it is nice to know people think so highly of me.
“I don’t do the work to gain recognition, I am not asking for anything. I do what I do because I want to do it. It is only right that I pass on what I have learnt to the other guys who find themselves in a similar situation as I was.”
Paul, who is originally from Nottingham, served in the parachute regiment of the British Army and lost his left leg during service in Northern Ireland when he was just 18-years-old.
“We were on a vehicle patrol convoy and there was a device on the side of the road,” he said. “We drove past and it was detonated by remote control. There were eight men in the vehicle I was in, and two of us survived.
“I did not remember anything from inside the vehicle until seven weeks later. I was badly burnt, lost my left leg below the knee, and my right foot was smashed to bits.”
Paul was taken to hospital in Northern Ireland before returning to England to have his left leg amputated four days later. He spent a year in hospital followed by a year in rehabilitation.
Paul, who is still a parachute rigger for the Army, decided to have his right leg amputated in January last year as he said after more than 30 years the pain was so great he ‘could not live with it anymore’.
In addition to his role as a BLESMA volunteer welfare officer, Paul is also a ski and yacht instructor and is currently in Austria skiing with other amputee ex-servicemen.
Paul, who has three grown-up children and who recently became a grandfather, had a busy 2012 as he took part in the London Paralympics opening ceremony and kayaked on the Thames for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee pageant.
Paul underlined the importance of helping amputee soldiers and said he hopes his own experience can provide a confidence boost for them.
His positive attitude, despite his injuries, has inspired others and is further reason why BLESMA nominated Paul for the Bowman Award.
Jerome Church, general secretary of BLESMA, said: “Paul Burns is quite simply an inspiring veteran. Suffering double injury in 1979 and much pain down the years, he has emphatically proved there is life after amputation.
“The way he has handled his life, always seeking new challenges to conquer, has been inspiring to all those who have had the privilege to know him.”
The Bowman Award, named after British soldier Major James Bowman, who was killed in Afghanistan in July 2010, will be presented to Paul by Peter Stringfellow as Major Bowman was his wife’s stepbrother.
The Soldiering On Awards will be held at the Park Plaza Hotel, in Westminster.