True grit powers pair on 125-mile journey

MARATHON EFFORT From left, Cpt Jon White and Colour Sergeant Lee Waters after finishing their epic 125-mile canoe journey, reading the Royal Marines magazine
MARATHON EFFORT From left, Cpt Jon White and Colour Sergeant Lee Waters after finishing their epic 125-mile canoe journey, reading the Royal Marines magazine
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HIS determined nature saw him survive three gunshot wounds while serving in Afghanistan.

Now Colour Sergeant Lee Waters, of Paulsgrove, has pushed through the pain barrier to complete the gruelling 125-mile Westminster International Canoe Marathon.

He embarked on the mammoth race with friend and former boss Captain Jon White – a triple amputee after he was injured in an improvised explosive device incident in Sangin.

They canoed from Devizes to Westminster in a time of 28 hours, eight minutes and 35 seconds.

They were raising money for two armed forces charities – SSAFA Forces Help and the Royal Marines Association.

Clr Sgt Waters said: ‘It was very emotional. It was touch and go in a few places but the feeling when we got to the end was euphoric. At the end we got carried out of our boats and then Jon and I hugged.

‘There were some very testing times but whenever things got tough we just looked at our core values which were written on a sticker on the boat – determination, unselfishness, cheerfulness and courage. That was enough to get us through.’

Their remarkable achievement comes two years after the pair were injured while on a tour of the war-torn country.

Clr Sgt Waters, a mountain leader at the Commando Training Centre in Lympston, Devon, was a troop sergeant for 40 Commando on Operation Herrick 12 at patrol base Mahboob.

He was shot three times – in the face, hand and foot – from behind compound walls outside a mosque in Sangin two years ago.

He was flown to Camp Bastion for emergency treatment before spending seven days at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Weeks later, Cpt White lost an arm and both legs in the IED explosion.

Clr Sgt Waters’ parents Les and Jan were housed at Norton House – a home provided by the SSAFA for families of servicemen and women hurt in conflict – while he recuperated.

He said: ‘When I got sent back I was sharing a ward with the lads who were there before us and it was horrific. There was little old me with scratches among lads with life-changing injuries.

‘My parents’ eyes were opened massively by what they saw.

‘I was gutted. I didn’t want to leave the troops. That played on my mind heavily when the boss (Jon) was hit. If I had been there things could have been different.’

Their efforts raised more than £5,000 before the race.

Clr Sgt Waters added: ‘The staff at Norton House do wonders to comfort the countless forces families that have had the misfortune to experience such turbulent times.’

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COLOUR Sergeant Lee Waters admits he is lucky to be alive.

He was a troop sergeant on patrol with 40 Commando in the town of Sangin when the attack happened on April 5, 2010 – 12 weeks into Operation Herrick 12. His team were deployed to a mosque in Malok after reports insurgents were using the building to shoot at troops.

Clr Sgt Waters said: ‘It was time for us to go in and check everyone’s fingerprints and DNA to confirm if any of them were insurgents.’

They got into position on top of a hill but the next five minutes would change his life.

He was checking his map when a bullet came through it and hit him in the face. The impact threw him back into an empty grave.

In quick succession, he was shot in his left hand as he reached for his rifle, and in the foot.