soldier’s pride

SERVING: Lance Corporal Sean Donlan in Afghanistan.
SERVING: Lance Corporal Sean Donlan in Afghanistan.

THE Royal British Legion urges people to wear their poppies with pride on Remembrance Day, but few will be prouder than Lance Corporal Sean Donlan.

The 24-year-old will be presented with his poppy at a special ceremony today in recognition of the huge sacrifice he made after a rocket propelled grenade almost took his life in Afghanistan.

LCpl Donlan’s family was told he would almost certainly die after shrapnel from the explosion passed through his skull and damaged his brain in April 2011.

The Gomersal soldier has no recollection of the attack, but for his sister, Emma, that day cannot be forgotten. The 30-year-old fainted when she answered the door to the army captain who broke the news.

She said: “On Mothers’ Day they came and told me he was VSI – very seriously injured.

“It was like a dream. They said it was bad. Really bad.”

Relatives were told to prepare for the worst.

Emma said: “They wanted to get him home as soon as possible so his family could see him, just in case.”

On a scale of one to 15, with 15 being the most critical, LCpl Donlan was rated at 14.

The soldier was on respite and on the phone to his girlfriend when the armoured vehicle he was crouched next to was targeted. The explosive flew by the tank and LCpl Donlan took the force of it.

He was left almost paralysed down one side, deaf in his left ear and unable to speak. Part of his skull was removed to relieve his symptoms and he underwent countless operations during months in hospital.

LCpl Donlan is still fighting to get his life back, but he would return to Afghanistan tomorrow if he could.

“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s not put me off,” he said.

LCpl Donlan is one of two soldiers who will receive his poppy from the Lord Mayor of Leeds at the city’s Poppy Appeal launch this afternoon. He was selected for the honour by Warrant Officer Class 1 Gareth Dalby RLC who works with soldiers injured in conflict.

WO1 Dalby said he and the charity wanted to make people aware of how Poppy Appeal money is spent.

He added: “I wanted to build Sean’s profile around this area so people knew that within their midst was a veteran.

“Somebody that had pretty much put his life on the line for his country.”

• See pages 20 and 21, and comment on page 28.