On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Jackie Bird investigates the terrorist attack's legacy for Scotland's servicemen - the growing number of amputees returning from Afghanistan.
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What we're going to do is difficult. It's finely balanced. It's
dangerous. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 drew
Britain's servicemen and women to a war 3,500 miles away. I wish you
good luck, God's speed and I will stand at your shoulder throughout.
For the past 12 months, I've been following Scotland's only commander
unit to explore the hidden cost of the conflict.
Here in Afghanistan, the realities of war are ever present. There are
some casualties and a life-changing part of their future. This is the
November 5th, 2008 and the battle Royal Marine Corporal Jay Hare has
stepped on an improvised explosive device. The bomb has severed his
leg below the knee. He has lost an The calm efficiency of the hospital
team is evidence of more than just professionalism. Dealing with such
traumatic injuries is part of their routine. Ten years on, limb loss is
one of the signature injuries of Three years after the explosion,
the man having surgery in the field hospital is back on his feet and
dealing with his injuries. What sort of physical and emotional
readjustment is needed when one day you're a fit young man and the next
you have to start rebuilding your life?
Jay lives near Arbroath with his wife and his two young daughters.
He joined the marines a year before 9/11.
When Jay went to Afghanistan, in 2008, he was an experienced
corporal. But on foot patrol in the Sangin valley his life changed.
It is unmistakeable when it happens to you. The pain registered,
anything like that. It was ringing. It was as if the world had slowed
down in many ways and there was an echoy pinging noise. I could not
see anything. I could hear. I could kind of speak, but I couldn't see
anything. Watching that footage of yourself, what was in your mind
when you are looking at that? was upsetting, but I was seeing
what the extent of my injuries were from the point of injury. To see
what the lads had seen on the ground while I was lying there. I
wanted to see that and compare how I looked then to know.
-- to now. And I look at the injuries to my
face, for instance, that was pretty horrific. Where would I start?
Where would anyone start? Ten years ago, military hospitals
in Britain were closing. Headley Court in Surrey was a former care
centre for World War II pilots. Today, it's the visible embodiment
of what a decade in Afghanistan has cost in flesh and bones. All the
servicemen and women who have lost limbs and suffered life-changing
injuries come through the doors. First to get prosthetic arms and
legs fitted, then how to use them, and then for routine check-ups. Jay
has made numerous visits here. From his home in Arbroath, it's a 1,000-
mile round-trip. How are you getting on? Not too bad.
Is it one of the older ones? It is getting a bit lose now. I could do
with a new one. The standard of care for amputees
at Headley Court is world class. But can this level of care be
maintained in the outside world? This is state-of-the-art technology
in terms of this when you compare it to the NHS. This is much, much
more advanced? You are looking at a couple of thousand for something
like that. If I was working in the NHS, I would have to make a special
case for funding. It wouldn't be something that I
would give out, like I could do here. Financially it's well above
anything you would get in the NHS, certainly.
As the majority of Afghanistan's wounded are still being treated
within the military, promises that they'll receive comparable levels
of care on the NHS are yet untested. There are fears it will be left to
charities to provide the extra funding. There's a socket - getting
that right... What is clear is that for the hundreds of young men like
Jay who come through headly, amputation does not mean a life of
dependence. They want to challenge themselves and confound the medics.
That determination can have its drawbacks. You must have to reign
them in sometimes? Yes. Especially people like Jay who are determined
to get back to their work and do all the activities they were before.
They are desperate to get on with it straight away. These are young
guys coming in here. They are 18, 20's. When they have these injuries
they have them for the rest of their lives. What might be right
for them in their 20's and what we can get them back to in their 20's
is not necessarily what they can do Despite his injuries, and until
he's discharged, Jay is still a Marine with 45 Commando. Scotland's
only commando unit. His comrades are preparing to go
back to Afghanistan and are due to leave in less than a month.
For 80% of the 700 men leaving here, Hold it there. Put your heels
against the curb for me. Fold your arms and look straight into the
lens for me. That's great! As casually as we on
civvy street might queue for office ID snaps the Marines line up for
the photographs which will be released to the media if they are
killed in action. The grim likelihood is that some of these
young men also risk becoming part of the Afghan legacy of amputees.
Don MacLean is a Royal Marine reservist. By day he is a car
salesman. He faces the same risks. For the next seven months he will
leave the car showroom to put his life on the line.
What's the relationship like between the regulars and the
reservists? It's good. Tom is smiling. Now you answer that.
Obviously we have mutual respect for each other, but.... It's good.
It's friendly banter, shall we say? There's no getting away from that.
And your fears, because the Marines have lost quite a few guys? They
have. That is just part of the job. If you let it worry you, then
you're not going to operate effectively. It's part of the job.
The young Marines of 45 Commando don't have to look far for
reminders of what might happen to them.
Less than a month after Jay Hare was injured last time Paul Baz
Barratt was to suffer some of the worst injuries of the war. His best
friend Sergeant Major Steff Moran was one of the first on the scene.
The Sergeant said he'd spent a lot of time in Afghanistan. It was some
of the worst injuries he had seen in any one man.
When I saw the nature of his injuries I thought he would be
lucky to pull out of this. I had numerous injuries. My right
leg, which was traumaticly amputated, just above the knee.
My left leg was hanging off from just below my hip.
Numerous internal injuries, a collapsed lung. Numerous broken
bones in the body. The left hand side sustained crush injuries. Left
pelvis, left leg, which was hanging off as well. My right hand side,
sustained the blast injuries, which had the collapsed lung. A lot of
damage to the right arm. Lost numerous fingers. My right ear
and my right eye as well. So severe were his injuries the
doctors in Afghanistan could do no more for him. He was sent home to
hospital in Birmingham, to his family, not expected to live.
couldn't talk. I was just, you know, couldn't control my tears. I was
just so quiet. Then these two doctors, surgeons came, and do you
remember they both stood at the bottom of the bed and they went,
"Somebody watching you up there." A few people said that, that....
doctors in bastion, they said they didn't expect him to live. They
were job smacked when some came back on leave. They were gob-
smacked he had survived. Dawn and 45 Commando, the unit face
their final challenge before being deployed to Afghanistan. An 11-
mile speed march carrying 40 pounds. It's one of the tests they have to
pass to initially win their green berets. This march has special
significance. It's the last time the unit will be together before
they go to war. Quick march. For their commanding
officer, the message is crucial. don't want to take the spring out
of the step. I don't want to flatten the champagne. I want to
say we've only played touch rugby so far. The match is ahead. I
thought roughly the normal length, sort of seven minute s. It will be
easier for them to cope with because they'll be outside. They
will have just run 11 miles. So will you and I.
Exactly! The Royal Marines pride themselves
on their fitness. They are the physical elite. They know the
insurgents IED can rob them of that which they most prize.
Baz and Jay, both serving members of 45 have come to see their
comrades off. That's all you wanted to do was be in the military, be a
soldier, be a Marine and this has happened to you.
Especially if you joined to be a career soldier. That's extremely
upsetting in itself. Something you've always wanted to do just
taken away from you, in a click of the fingers.
Baz was aware his presence on the beach embodied the cost of the 9/11
decade. It was a time of reflection for me.
A lot was reflection. A lot was wishing it was me going out.
A lot of it was wishing them all well.
I wanted to be there. That was the thing. I wanted to be there to show
the lads, look it doesn't matter how bad you think things are.
A lot of Marines want to be Spartans, physically fit, be
warriors, ready to go anywhere at the drop of a hat. You may look at
yourself and think, you're not a With 45 gone, bfplt az and -- Baz
and Jay have to focus on their future. For Baz it's a battle for
physical mobility. There is also a job for him closer to home. It is a
hidden treasure. And it is! Baz has been working to build a
garden at the Marine's base. A place where wounded commandos can
find peace and reflect. He's only been out of his
wheelchair for a matter of weeks. One of my first challenges, believe
it or not was to be able to stand up and have a pee again.
But, you know, when I look at things like that, I have to thank
my lucky stars, because where I am right now, it could always be worse.
There's another challenge you have set yourself? The next challenge
will be walking 10kms for March For Heroes. It's a walk in the park.
a couple of months time. A couple of months time. I will not ask if
you think you are going to do it? Failure's not an option. Walking
10kms for his garden will be a Jay lost his leg below the knee so
learning to walk again was less of a problem than for Baz. The blast
of the IED caused terrible injuries to Jay's face, it was effectively
blown off. He lost an eye and wears a prosthetic nose. Whfrpblgts asked
what would I like to work on first, my face or my leg, I said my leg.
think knowing what I know now, I would have gone for facial
reconstruction first. But Jay now has a dilemma. He has to decide
whether to have major reconstructive surgery. We're about
to show you graphic pictures of Jay's initial facial wounds.
They're disturbing. But to fully understand what he's gone through
and why more surgery is so daunting, they have to be seen.
Confronted with such devastating injuries, the surgeons were
masterful. But rebuilding Jay's nose will mean growing tissue on
another part of his face. If he goes ahead, it means in his
struggle to look like his old self again, he will have to endure
further disfigurement. It is something that always reminds me
every day, when I have a shave or twice a day, I have to sort my make
up out, you know, it's constantly there. I'm constantly looking in
the mirror. It played on my mind. That's what probably made me an
angry kind of person sometimes. People staring at you, thinking
that people are staring at you, looking at old pictures of yourself
and not recognising yourself in the mirror sometimes. It's May, and I
join 4-5 Commando, who are now in Afghanistan's Nad-e'Ali south. They
know the greatest danger is from IEDs. We'll be behind each other.
If there's any prominent diversions off the path, if you see a scuff,
if you're not sure where someone's stepped where they went, shout up,
where did you go, where was it mate and we'll let you know.
Caution is the watch word as X-Ray company begins a patrol. As a
result of roadside bombed, over 200 British servicemen and women have
become amputees, half suffering multiple limb loss. A marine
reservist Don MacLean is a long way from the car showroom forecourt of
his day job. The first patrol I did, you think that everything you stand
on is going to explode. And you are, you know, your senses are
heightened and you're looking round. Then you start to calm down. It's
good to be able to establish what is normal out there, because if
things aren't normal then you know something's going to happen. There
was a strange feeling. Knowing that any time you could get shot at or I
suppose blown up, if you like. avoid the IE dfrzs -- IEDs, the
Marines try to find safe routes and then walk in each other's footsteps.
On some of the routes we have bettary shuerpbs that it's clear
because we have clear today a lot. We are absolutely following the
footsteps of the man in front. Carrying as much as 100 pounds of
equipment and body armour, with temperatures in the high 40s, they
know each time they venture out into the Green Zone, they're just
one foot step away from disaster. If it's going to happen, then it's
going to happen. I suppose that was the mentality of a lot of us. If
it's going to happen, it's going to happen. They fear not being brave.
Those who have not been in a situation that's really tested them,
I think the deepest fear is that they don't do as well as they can
do. Ten years after 9/11 got us into Afghanistan, Britain and
America are searching for a way out. It's not the first time great
powers have come unstuck here. 45's base has a history of its own. This
fort was built by the British 130 years ago. After them came the
Soviets. They were here for ten years and lost 15,000 men in the
process. Evefrplgly their exit strategy was to train up the Afghan
security forces and leave them to Which sounds familiar. Now this
same force is home not only to the Marines, but to the Afghan
nationals on whose fast-track military training the UK's 21st
century exit strategy is based. This is what military strategy now
looks like in Afghanistan. At least it's what the Marines are trying to
achieve in their little piece of Helmand. Their aim is to get on a
level playing field with the Afghan Security Forces and form a
partnership and then hand over control. Like all sporting
metaphors, it's simplistic, maybe unrealistic, but at this stage in
the campaign, it's all they've got. Spending time here and watching 45
at work and at play, it's hard not to fear for these fit young Marines,
who could join the growing number of seriously injured. They put
themselves at risk every time they step outside this base. There's a
glorious vanity about them all that I love. I'm sure shop keepers
around Britain enjoying Royal Marines buying fancy clothes as
well to perch on top of their perfect fi seeks. There's a mix of
vanity and ruggedness and hardness. I mean some of them are just, I
think of Olympic athlete status Afghanistan has taken a terrible
toll these last ten years. Baz knows he's been given a second
chance. You'll have all this dangling down here. You hold it
with your left hand. But daddy can't. So all we do is simply
back... He wasn't expected to live, let alone walk again. We started
fly-fishing all three of us. To be able to do that, to take the girls,
be able to do things with them, it's unbelievable. Nice and gently
like that. I have to correct my walking now to
be able to walk my girls down the aisle I suppose. I would never have
believed anybody to have said "You'll be able to walk 10k".
10k remains Baz's immediate challenge. Corporal Jay Hare has
found solace in an unlikely setting. The wounds of his Afghanistan were
physical and psychological. When I was first injured, up till probably
the year-and-a-half point, I was still very angry, very upset, yeah
maybe, drank a little bit too heavily sometimes, thought too much
about mates that I'd lost. It could have been me, feeling sorry for
myself. I know it probably upset people, close people, close friends
around me, by having the evil tongue and the way I was acting.
His search has taken him to the rolling hills of Royal Deeside to
Horseback UK, a charity that teaches wounded servicemen and
women to ride. If you're missing a leg or two legs, these things have
got four. They can get you up a hill and move you at 30mph etc and
more. If you're good on a horse, you can dart around, you still have
that adrenaline. It calms you down. You have to be calm around the
horse. How do you feel when you're on a horse, going 30mph, do you
feel I'm Jay pre-the IED again? don't really think that. I think
Jay don't come off at this speed! You don't want to go back in
hospital. One of the thaings that we've seen in the last ten years,
guys making it home who wouldn't have made it home ten years ago.
With that comes a responsibility, in my opinion. If you're going to
fix a man, you better give them a fixture. It's our responsibility as
a society to be imaginetive about how we think of these young men and
women's future and take some time and effort in helping them
transition from the military world, which they're going to have to
leave through injury, to the civilian world, which is very, very
different to the intensity of Afghanistan. Right leg on, looking
where you want to go. The horses have helped Jay overcome his demons.
Now he's teaching others. When you get to where I am now, start
turning and looking to where you want to go. He's ready to confront
his future. I'm 90% sure that I'll go for facial reconstruction, but
that was something that I either did immediately or the longer it
took, it was harder and then the more I was thinking about it. I had
to come to terms with it in my own mind and I'm probably going to look
a lot worse before I look a lot better. Jay has regained his self-
assurance and a new set of skills, building a life after the military.,
Back in Helmand, the view from 45's HQ lookout point is a world away
from a war zone. When do you go to school? One o'clock, until? The
Marines have been making new young friends and settling into their
routine. Armed contacts with the enemy are few. 45 don't know if
this is a lull before the traditional summer fighting season
begins or something more hopeful. But the threat of IEDs is constant,
as the Marines were about to discover.
The message over the radio which is "contact IED strike", and it's one
of those moments that turns everyone's blood to ice. You're
hanging on every word to see if there are casualties. When someone
steps on an IED you clearly think the worst. A reservist, Don MacLean,
had become the latest casualty of the war. I was the second man in
the patrol. As we came through the, it was very high roots, it was like
elephant grass you have out there. You're fighting your way through
that. Next thing I know is there's a loud bang. I fell, hit the ground.
I remember lying there and then just feeling, there was a bit of a
delay in terms of shock. Suddenly you feel the pain. Not all the
explosives had gone off. Really it was just the detonator and the
pressure pad that had blown him onto his back and broken several
bones in his foot. The greatest relief to everybody was how lucky
we all were that to step on an IED and get away with it without
Good running mechanics, yeah, driving with the arms. Imagine that
balloon pulling your head up, keeping your spine nice and
straight. And last little push now to the finish.
To build his endurance for the 10k walk to come, Baz is training hard.
What about the 10k, how big an effort is going to be required for
him to do that? It's massive. It's absolutely massive, bearing in mind
at the minute he's doing a mile- and-a-half. The unfortunate thing
is because of how complex his injuries are, he often gets
infections and illness, things like that. Obviously, it's setting him
back with his training for the 10k. In the last few years IEDs have
become more powerful, designed to increase the mutilation they
inflict. One of the operations was where they remove ribs from my
ribcage to rebuild the hand bone. Unfortunately that died. An the
only way to keep my hand alive was to put my hand inside my tummy.
It's a technique they've used since the First World War. I stayed like
that for three to four weeks with my hand in my tummy and then let
the skin attach itself to my hand and removed it. I could have said I
wanted to be like Peter Andre, instead of getting the abs put in,
I got them sculpted instead. Just kidding. I've got scars everywhere
as you can see. Don MacLean, despite being dubbed the luckiest
man in Helmand, after stepping on an IED is facing more surgery. He's
already had six operations on his foot, but the surgeons pronose is
includes devastating news. Because I'm likely to have pain when I walk
and obviously, arthritis further down the line, that the best thing
to do is either to fuse my bones where then I walk with a bad limp
because I can't flex my foot as I could now, or ultimately it be
holding me back too much and the best thing to do is amputate it.
And you're feelings on potentially losing your foot? Probably cross
that bridge when I come to it. I have thought about it and it's not
as scary as it was. I'm sure that might change when they go to say,
this is going to be the best way to have a quality of life that you
want, so it's just take that, as I say, cross that bridge when we come
The roadside bombs that mutilate also kill. The IEDs account for
more than half of the deaths of British servicemen and women in
Afghanistan. A vast slab of granite will make up the centrepiece of the
marines memorial garden that Baz has been working on. On it is
etched the name of every Royal Marine from 45 who's been killed in
service. On their last two tours of Afghanistan, 13 names were added to
that list. A fair few names on there that I
know. It could have been my name on that memorial stone. Somedays you
think, "There's things that are worse than dying, living the rest
of your life with a disability that you will have to take care with."
But it makes me stronger, because if I can't do it, then nobody can
It's the day of the 10k walk and there's a large turnout in support
of the garden. For all his training, to date the furthest Baz has
managed to walk is two kilometres. His walk starts and to encourage
him on, his dad and his daughter Rhea are coming too.
The day will be a huge challenge for Baz's rehabilitation and his
self-esteem. Oh, thank you! Can I have a kiss.
Thank you very much. Walking with a heavy prosthetic leg means Baz uses
far more energy than an able-bodied person. That's 107 minutes, so
that's... Watch the kerb. That's probably the longest I've actually
walked in one session. Steady boy. Morning. Keep up the good work.
Thank you very much. It's swollen up. You can tell my stump. It's not
in the socket properly. After four kilometres, the stump is beginning
to rub raw. How do? Baz's trainer Sam is
monitoring his condition. There's no chance that I'll give up
or give in. It's not in my nature. Spwaz concerned. -- Sam is
concerned. Baz is due to have an operation soon. Any infection could
How painful is it Baz? A little bit. Baz battles on.
Three hours in, and he's forced to take to his wheelchair.
To his dad, he's unbowed. To do what you've done, you walked
Apology for the loss of subtitles for 41 seconds
He is adamant he'll walk across that line. I have been told he's
not to overdo it, but he would just go on, any way. I'm very proud.
All right? It's all right. It's taken five hours and a massive
effort. Baz's triumph of marks the end of
another stage in his remarkable journey. He'll soon be back in
hospital awaiting a major operation, which he hopes will put him further
along his road to rehabilitation. Three-and-a-half -- 3,500 miles
away a young commando from 45 has become a new statistic. He stepped
on an IED and has lost three limbs. In a sense, the number of
amputations is the hidden legacy of the Afghanistan war.
It's not the sombre spectacle of a frontline vigil. Tributes for a
fallen comrade. It is not the ultimate sacrifice.
On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Jackie Bird investigates the terrorist attack's hidden legacy for Scotland's servicemen; the growing number of amputees returning from Afghanistan. Given exclusive access to 45 Commando Royal Marines over nine months, BBC Scotland follows the moving stories of the military men and women who have to cope after suffering serious and life-changing injuries. The programme uses film taken in the field hospital moments after Corporal Jay Hare stepped on a bomb. It unravels his story as he tries to put his life together three years on, now with a prosthetic leg and profound facial injuries. The film also follows other injured veterans, and while filming with 45 Commando in Afghanistan, captures the story of Don Maclean before and after he steps on an IED.