Hero Soldier Back Home
A SOLDIER from Ballymena who lost part of his right leg in an explosion in Afghanistan has spoken of his hopes that he will run a marathon one day.
Phillip Gillespie has undergone six operations and hours of grueling rehabilitation since the attack in Helmand Province in January.
But the brave 23-year-old member of the support company with 1 Royal Irish Regiment says that losing part of his leg won’t stop him leading an active life.
And, displaying remarkable lack of self- pity, he says that seeing worse wounded servicemen has made him appreciate his relative good fortune.
Gillespie, who helped rescue a comrade gunned down by the Taliban days before he was injured, can still vividly recall the horrific moment he placed his foot on the pressure pad of IED, but says he is grateful he remained conscious throughout his ordeal.
“There was a moment when I stepped on the IED -- just a millisecond -- when I realized what I had done, and the next thing I was blown onto my back,” he said.
“My initial thought was that someone else had been hit. When I looked down at my left leg, it looked okay, but then I realized that my right leg was bad.
“The pain was really bad, but the other soldiers were over to me in seconds and they treated me. I was then flown to the hospital and was being treated there just over 20 minutes later.”
The attack came just days after Phillip and another soldier were caught up in a dramatic gun battle.
“We came under fire from the Taliban and were trying to get cover,” he said.
“We were running side by side through a field, when (the other soldier) got shot in both ankles by a single bullet.
“I had to treat him there and get him evacuated out of there, so I knew exactly what to expect when I was hit.
The former pupil of Cullybackey High School was on his third tour of Afghanistan, after previous deployments in 2006 and 2008.
He was taken to Camp Bastion, where the lower part of his right leg was amputated.
He was then flown back to Birmingham for further treatment.
Seven months on from the attack, Phillip and his girlfriend Kirsty from Harryville are looking forward to moving into their new home in Broughshane.
“We cannot wait to move in. It’s a fantastic house, but we still have to get a kitchen fitted and other things sorted out first,” said Phillip.
“I know how lucky I am just to be here and to be able to get around. When I travel over to Hedley Court (in Surrey) and see some of those who have been really badly injured, it makes me realize that my situation is not that bad at all really.”
Indeed, Phillip has already begun wearing his prosthetic limb and hopes to be fully mobile in the coming months.
“It’s a bit difficult at the minute. I need another operation, as the stump is still too swollen to wear it properly,
“But once that is sorted out, I should be able to get walking properly again. The army will also give me an athletic limb, which I can use for running, and once I get running again, I might think about doing a marathon,” he said.
Teen Son Problems
A MOTHER wept in court as a judge sent her 14-year-old son to detention for a week for repeatedly breaching a curfew that banned him from being out on the streets after 10 p.m.
Judge John O'Neill revoked bail at Tralee District Court and remanded the 14-year-old to a detention centre for a week, saying the boy had been given a chance and didn't appreciate it.
The youth, who cannot be named because of his age, was found by Gardai (police) on the streets of Tralee on three separate occasions, just weeks after being given a second chance at Tralee
District Court for five previous breaches of a curfew that was imposed on him.
Inspector Martin McCarthy said that, on May 25, the boy had been placed on a curfew from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. as a condition of bail. However, on July 13 he was back in court for breaching that curfew five times.
At that court, Judge James O'Connor said he would give the boy one more chance to obey the curfew, with Gardai even extending it to 10 p.m. as a “sign of good faith,” McCarthy said.
But court was told last week that the teen had subsequently breached the curfew three times -- on August 1 when he was spotted by Gardai at 3:38 a.m.; on August 4 when he was discovered at 6:10 a.m. and on August 8, when he was picked up at 1:35 a.m.
McCarthy told the court that the state has “real fears” for the young boy because of the company he is keeping, describing his acquaintances as “very influential people.”
"I can only see one way for him to go," he said.
Accepting that the three breaches of the curfew had taken place, the boy's solicitor told the court that his client had been getting food from a takeaway on one occasion, had been coming home from a friend's house on another and was collecting his bike on the third occasion.