When Combat Engineer Sam was injured in Afghanistan, SSAFA was there for him and his family
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Sam Jack, a Combat Engineer with the Royal Engineers was trained as a search specialist for concealed explosive devices. In 2009, during a combat operation in Helmand Province, Sam was shot in the head through his right eye. The bullet shattered and fragments entered his brain causing significant damage.
After undergoing emergency surgery in Afghanistan, Sam was airlifted to the UK to undergo further surgery. The doctors told his family that he had less than a 20% chance of survival, and if he did survive, his brain would certainly be damaged.
His father Roger recalled, “The next few weeks were a blur. I barely left his bedside and my emotions were constantly up and down from one hour to the next.”
“Slowly, Sam improved and was transferred to Headley Court Rehabilitation Centre. Throughout Sam’s stay there were support personnel helping us. One lady made an effort to talk to me and give me little bits of advice. I have often credited her with keeping me sane during that period. It was only some time after Sam left Headley Court that we found out the lady was part of SSAFA.”
“SSAFA kept in touch and invited us to their Support Group for families of injured service personnel. For the first time I was with people who actually understood how I felt and what I had been living through as a father. It wasn’t that others didn’t sympathise with me or try to help me. They just didn’t understand what I was going through. At the support group I didn’t have to try to explain anything, pretend how Sam was progressing, or be up-beat and positive.”
Six years have now passed and Sam has progressed beyond all expectations, he had his right eye removed and has re-adjusted to the changes in his life after surgery. Although Sam has made a great recovery he is still unfortunately unable to hold a permanent full time job. Instead Sam works a couple of times a week at the Air Training Corps, which he was a member until he joined the army, as a “civilian instructor” and regularly volunteers for SSAFA to thank them for the support they gave him and his father.
Roger has continuously attended the SSAFA Family Support Group to help him accept the changes in his family life to be able to give Sam the support he needs.
Roger says, “During the past six years SSAFA has been a considerable asset in my life. I have met so many incredible people, have heard such stories of pain and suffering and need, and there is a constant theme underlying all of them; they all received help from SSAFA and the various support groups they organise. I sometimes reflect on how long it took me to realise what a help that support could be, and it is sad to think that there are many families who do not make use of that support. This particularly applies to fathers, who in many cases cling to the traditional stereotype of the macho man who toughs it out alone.
I am so proud of my son Sam, he fought for his Queen and country and also personally to recover from what happened in Afghanistan. I am really thankful that his mother and I were able to provide him the support he needed to get through the battle, and we owe much of that to SSAFA.”