ONE moment, Lance Corporal Chris Nowell was playing cards in the Afghan heat with his colleagues.
The next, he was waking up in hospital with severe brain trauma and sight loss.
A Taliban rocket had bounced off a wall near his head and exploded, knocking him out and leaving him with serious neurological damage.
Two weeks later he regained consciousness, but faced an agonising period of rehabilitation including learning to walk again.
The father-of-three, 29, from Portsmouth, told The News: ‘It was about 11am and a helicopter had just given us some mail and then flown off.
‘And that’s all I remember.
‘Apparently the rocket hit the wall and it fractured my skull.
‘The next thing, I woke up in hospital in Birmingham.
‘I didn’t know what was going on and I didn’t understand it.’
It was around two weeks after the rocket attack when L/Cpl Nowell regained consciousness, much to the delight of his family, including his pregnant wife Clare.
But it was only the start of a long period of learning how to live a normal life all over again.
‘One of the worst moments was being with my occupational therapist and we were in a kitchen scenario where I had to warm up some toast and put butter on it – I didn’t have a clue,’ said L/Cpl Nowell.
‘I knew something was wrong in my head, my brain wasn’t telling me how to do it.
‘I would walk into a room and completely forget why.
‘I was showing positive steps every day but it was about a year after that things started coming back.
‘But it was harder for my wife and for my family than it was for me.’
It was in Afghanistan in 2007 that he suffered his horrific injuries in the rocket attack.
Now Chris has spoken out to thank staff at the charity Blind Veterans UK who helped him and his family cope with the injuries and helped him lead a normal life. It’s thanks to his own determination and the help of the charity that he is able to get on with his life.
L/Cpl Nowell now enjoys spending time with his wife Clare, 26, and their three children Luke, five, Adam, two, and Rhys, who is three months old.
‘Blind Veterans UK has done everything for me,’ he said.
‘They taught me how to read and write again. It’s thanks to them I progressed so quickly. I’m really grateful for everything they have done to help me get back on my feet.’
L/Cpl Nowell joined the King’s Royal Hussars in August 2001 and served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Blind Veterans UK says there are more than 68,000 blind veterans in the country who could be eligible for the charity’s help but do not realise it.