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RAF veterans recognised at Soldiering On Awards

Three exceptional RAF Benevolent Fund beneficiaries recognised at the Soldiering On annual award ceremony in central London.

Mick McConnell and MemphisMick McConnell and Memphis

RAF veterans Luke Wigman and Mick McConnell received awards for their bravery in the face of adversity and Kevin and Amie Ogilvie were nominated for the People's Choice Award for their incredible efforts to raise more than £10,000 for the Fund in appreciation for the support given to them when Kevin was injured during his deployment to Afghanistan.

Additionally, the Guinea Pig Club, a group of Second World War airmen who suffered disfiguring burns, were nominated by the RAF Benevolent Fund for the Lifetime Achievement Award. Embracing the experimental nature of their post-injury plastic surgeries, the Guinea Pigs formed the society to encourage each other to lead full, active lives.

Guinea PigsMembers of the Guinea Pig Club

Guinea Pig Jack Toper said: "Most importantly, the Guinea Pigs have been there to mentor new generations of burns victims, including Service personnel injured in the Falklands, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We know all about burns. We can tell them that their life is not over. It is beginning a new phase, but it is up to them what they want to do with it."

Mick McConnell's award was really for his dog Memphis who was named Canine Partner. Memphis worked with Mick who was an RAF Police dog handler, sniffing out improvised explosive devices. Mick was injured when he stepped on an IED and following two years of rehabilitation took the difficult decision to amputate his foot.

When Memphis retired from service Mick adopted him and says he has been instrumental in helping him cope with his life-changing injuries. He said: "He gave me confidence to put one foot in front of the other in Afghanistan and now gives me comfort and confidence to get out and about. He also makes me smile every day!"

Luke Wigman received the Courage Award for his actions when he was also injured in Afghanistan. He was on foot patrol when he stepped on an improvised explosive device, which severely damaged his legs.

With his unit under attack, Luke performed his own first aid and organised his medical evacuation. The airman showed incredible courage under extreme pressure.

Luke said: "I managed to keep calm throughout the situation; making sure my section of Afghan troops carried out the correct procedures. I applied dressings to both legs, administered morphine and then radioed for backup.

Luke WigmanLuke Wigman

"Shortly after the IED strike, we found ourselves under gunfire attack by insurgents. We were under attack for about five or ten minutes before a section of U.S. marines, who were on the outskirts of the village, managed to get to me."

After seven surgeries to repair the damage and a year in rehabilitation learning to walk again, Luke was medically discharged from the RAF as he did not regain full use of his leg.

Despite still finding it difficult to bend his leg properly, Luke has become an inspirational athlete, having won a gold medal in the Invictus Games in London this past September.

In 2014 he also risked sub-zero temperatures and polar bears to finish second in the North Pole Marathon. Plans are already underway for him to compete in a similar marathon in the South Pole.

Air Marshal Chris Nickols, RAF Benevolent Fund controller, said: "All of these award winners were nominated by the RAF Benevolent Fund in recognition of their amazing bravery and fortitude.

"The Fund is proud to be able to support veterans and RAF personnel with practical, financial and emotional assistance."

The Awards, compered by Anne Diamond and Christopher Biggins, were held at the Park Plaza Westminster in London on Saturday.

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