An inspirational soldier flied the flag for South Yorkshire this week, in the countdown to the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson proudly carried the historic flame 300 metres as crowds of onlookers cheered at the Cenotaph in Bennetthorpe, Doncaster.
Ben (28) whose army unit is 7th Parachute Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery (7 Para RHA), lost both his legs and suffered brain and back injuries when his Land Rover detonated an anti-tank mine on patrol in Afghanistan on 12 September 2006.
He wasn’t expected to survive, or function independently again but through sheer determination and physical training he can now walk and speak unaided.
The biggest cheers in the crowd came from the 50 members of his Artillery unit, who travelled up from Essex to line both sides of the street to show their support. Included in the group were some of his colleagues that came to his aid when he was injured in the incident.
Speaking after the relay, Ben said: “I feel very happy and proud. It’s great that all my friends have come up to see me, I’ve been really looking forward to seeing them.
“Today I’ve shown everybody what I can do to say thanks for all the support that they have shown me.”
"Words can’t describe"
Diane Dernie, Ben’s mother who lives with him in Doncaster said:
“Words can’t describe how proud I feel of Ben and what he’s accomplished. He has been working so hard, practicing walking along his route every day, day in day out since he was given it by local organisers several weeks ago.
"He's done brilliantly to complete the relay on his prosthetic limbs and not rely on a wheelchair, which he would have needed a few months ago.”
Major David Walker, Acting Commanding Officer of 7 Para RHA said:
“Everyone in 7 Para RHA is incredibly proud of Ben’s achievements in overcoming massive adversity to be here [today]. Surviving his injuries in the first instance showed his mental and physical robustness, but in getting to this point he’s demonstrated determination and spirit that’s nothing short of inspiring.
“He is an extremely fitting individual to carry the Olympic torch, and I’m sure his fortitude and fighting spirit will be an example to many. I know that everyone who’s served alongside Ben would want me to pass on their admiration and best wishes to him today and for his continuing recovery. He is a fantastic example of the moral and physical courage of an airborne soldier.”
Ben joined the Army in September 2000, after completing basic training at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate. He joined his regiment, 7 Para RHA in December 2001, and deployed on operational tours to Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan before he was injured.