Finding a new path after injury in Iraq

David Iveson was a career soldier but had to be medically discharged after being injured in Iraq. Now he’s finding a new path.

Rachel, David’s wife, clearly remembers the day she started to notice a change in his behaviour.

“I knew something was wrong when he would act out of character and then the drink increased.” says Rachel.

On tour in Iraq

David joined the Royal Regiment of Wales when he was 20. The Army was a huge part of David’s life, and he would spend much of his life away from his family.

“I met some of my best friends in the Army and we try to stay in touch.” David

The time away and the dangers he faced were trying for Rachel. When David left for an eight month tour of Iraq it would be the longest time that they’d spent apart since they met.

“I can’t even talk about the moment I dropped David off at RAF Brize Norton all those years ago, after his R&R. It still makes me emotional.” says Rachel.

At a friend’s wedding while David was on R&R in 2007. Credit: Alison Baskerville/Royal British Legion

 

For those seeing family and friends leave for conflict zones, there’s always the fear of whether or not you’ll see them again, of how they could be injured on tour.

Sadly for David and Rachel, these fears were justified.

In 2005 David was caught up in a bomb blast whilst travelling in an armoured vehicle which was shaken violently.The blast injured his back, and at the time David didn’t realise the potential damage. Unfortunately this meant he didn’t receive the right care at the time.

He would go on to complete another tour of Iraq in 2007, but the pain in his back only got worse.

“I don’t go a day without the pain. It’s constant,” says David as he gathers his crutches before heading out on a walk with his family and their dog Jack.

Credit: Alison Baskerville/Royal British Legion

“We got Jack to help deal with David's anxiety both in and out of the house,” says Rachel. “He’s amazing for keeping us both calm.”

They try to take walks together along the famous Taff trail which connects the Welsh valleys to the capital city Cardiff.

David says, “I’ve really had to learn how to manage my limits now. No more running up hills for me.”

Medically discharged

David went through a difficult emotional period in 2013. He was finally diagnosed with chronic back pain and PTSD.

Credit: Alison Baskerville/Royal British Legion

“I was told that I was being medically discharged and sent home to wait for a date to leave the Army” says David. “I went from being a soldier to a person with limitations.”

At his lowest point, just after leaving the Army, Rachel supported him as best she could: “It was so hard, he was so hard to live with. I had to tell him to start living for us and not for the army. This is something we will always need to tackle.

After a period of unsuccessful treatment for his back pain David met Pete, a member of The Royal British Legion, at a job fair in Cardiff.

“I see Pete as a friend, he gives me advice. I don’t want handouts and I love that the Legion has offered me and my family, help, support and guidance when needed.”

Credit: Alison Baskerville/Royal British Legion

David was having trouble living independently at home. Pete signed David up to the Legion’s Handy Van service, which helps ex-Service people and their families with small household repairs and minor adaptations.

They came round and fitted handles to David’s staircase, mended an outside pipe and installed rails where needed so that he could get around the house more easily.

“I really can’t thank them enough. Such great people and it’s really helped me with day to day living,” says David.

Credit: Alison Baskerville/Royal British Legion

Looking to the future

David lives with Rachel and their 4-year-old daughter Molly, but their family will soon be getting larger as they are expecting a baby boy in January 2017.

“It will be very different now. I missed most of the first year and a half of Molly as a baby,” says Dave.

Credit: Alison Baskerville/Royal British Legion

David now works with a local business, but it’s a world away from the intensive role he had in the Army.

“It’s made such a difference to be able to get back to some kind of work.” He works two days a week, to help him gain confidence and to work within the limitations of his on-going injury.

“I get real time with the family now. We are joined at the hip,” says David. “It’s much better being able to see my family and to still try to contribute to our lives rather than just the fleeting weekends.”

Images and words by Alison Baskerville.

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