"For them it was just another day at work, for me it made all the difference"
Former RAF dog handler Mick McConnell's life changed in an instant when in 2011 he stepped on an IED his dog had failed to spot. Now, 10 years on he met some of the crew who rescued him that day and said 'thank you'.
It's something I've been wanting to do for a long time, just say thank you. I was a bundle of nerves in the run up to meeting the crews. I wanted to say something so small, but it meant so much to me, to be able to say thank you for what they did for me. It was an honour to meet them in person, they have been constantly on my mind since that day. I think about what they did for me, putting their lives at risk.
Before I met the crew, I knew nothing about them, I didn't remember them from that day. I have some headcam footage that I've seen of my rescue which shows them running out of the aircraft and carrying me back in, but I don't really remember it. Meeting the crew has put the day into a more ordered fashion for me.
They were quite nonchalant about it, just put it down to a day's work. To save someone's life is no mean thing, but they were adamant they were just doing their job. One of the crew was telling me she was manning the mini-gun as they were coming to rescue me. While we were chatting, the crew pointed out the Chinook in the hangar we were standing in was the one which had rescued me.
Then I noticed the tail number of the Chinook – it was Z891 the last three digits of my service number. It sent shivers down my spine, what a coincidence. I had to take a step back and everyone went quiet when they heard.
I was working in the most dangerous square mile of Afghanistan when I was blown up on just my second patrol following R&R. Seven guys had been lost to IEDs before me, which is why they brought the dog handlers in. I was the first person in my group to be injured and then three weeks later half of the platoon were injured in a grenade blast and the next day an IED blast took the rest of them. They all ended up in hospital next to me!
It was great to get up close to the aircraft too – I'm a bit of a geek when it comes to aircraft. I enjoyed learning all about it and what the aircraft is capable of.
I feel so proud I have been able to thank those people, to shake their hand. It was an amazing opportunity to meet some of the people who helped to recover me. Mick McConnell's foot was shattered when he stepped on an IED, which eventually led its amputation after two years of painful rehabilitation. Since then, we have been by his side, helping with a loan to buy a house which enabled Mick and his wife Lorna to move closer to family.
By Mick McConnell