A Rugby soldier has qualified as a fitness instructor – just months after losing his leg in an horrific explosion on the battlefield.
Tony Checkley, now 23, was leading a patrol through Afghanistan’s deadly Helmand Province in June 2012 when he was nearly killed by an Improvised Explosive Device.
The blast threw the Grenadier Guard through the air and he had to be evacuated to safety before being taken to Birmingham’s Selly Oak Hospital the next day.
Despite the ordeal, the former Harris School pupil from Long Lawford is back on his feet and working for Rugby’s Go Airborne fitness bootcamp.
He said: “I just remember I was on a standard patrol one moment and the next I was flying through the air before landing on my backside. I was conscious through the whole experience.
“My leg was still attached, but there was blood everywhere and I immediately suspected, just by people’s reactions around me, that I’d suffered a serious injury. I don’t particularly remember being in much pain, but was given morphine soon after.”
Tony’s leg was amputated in Birmingham days later. He had been in Afghanistan for around a month and had been in several fire-fights with the Taliban while out on patrols.
“Things like death and injury are always in the back of your mind as a soldier, but I never thought it’d happen to me,” he added.
“I don’t let it get me down though – many soldiers never made it back from Afghanistan so in a way things could have been much worse.
“I’m loving life at the moment, and can do everything that everyone else can do – it just takes me a little longer to adjust because of my prosthetic leg design.”
After another operation next month, he is expecting to recover later this year and even capitalise on his experience as a runner by trying and break into Britain’s Paralympic team.
He added: “I’d like to say a huge thank-you to all my friends and family who have supported me the past year – it’s meant a lot.”
Karl Fraser, also of Go Airborne bootcamp and an ex-Parachute Regiment soldier who served two tours of Afghanistan, said: “Tony’s a good friend of mine and also second in command at Go Airborne Bootcamp.
“In just one year he’s qualified as a personal trainer, trained with Paralympic GB at Loughbrough University and has been selected for trials in the track and field team. I think it’s amazing.”
Go Airborne is hosting a six-mile sprint, mud-run, swim and obstacle course on Saturday July 27.
For more details see goairborne.co.uk or visit Go Airborne’s Facebook page.