Stood before a rapt audience of teenage school pupils, triple amputee Josh Boggi asks the teacher: “What were you doing on New Year’s Eve 2010, Sir?”
The Year 9 students laugh as their geography teacher, Mr Craigmyle, struggles to remember.
It is a prompt for ex-Para Josh to tell of his experience of that day, where he lost both legs and an arm.
But Josh, 32, from Reading, is not here to brag about his war in Afghanistan; he is here as part of a new scheme run by Blesma – the charity for limbless veterans.
Its objective is to turn the “Snowflake Generation” into Generation R – hardy teenagers with the resilience to tackle anything.
“I was going out on a dawn patrol in the desert,” Josh tells the 25 students at John Roan School in Greenwich, South East London.
“It was a really eerie morning… something just didn’t feel right.”
Josh shocks the children by shouting the word “BANG!” as he describes a comrade at the front being blown up first.
“Half an hour later I was blown up, off a road, into a ditch,” Josh continues. “I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t see because of the dust.
“It wasn’t until my two best friends started putting tourniquets on my legs that I thought, ‘Wow, I’ve been injured’.”
He had lost both legs below the knee and his right arm was so badly damaged it had to be amputated. Josh remembers nothing of being flown home.
He recollects the hallucinations he endured as he awoke from a week-long induced coma at a
military hospital in Birmingham.
Josh had been injured on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan having joined the Army as a 17-year-old and been promoted to corporal.
When he was sent home the reality of Josh’s situation struck him. Although he learned to walk on prosthetic legs, he realised later that he had to push himself.
Josh tells of being the first triple amputee to cycle from Paris to London with a hand-powered bike.
After that he took part in the 2014 and 2016 Invictus Games. And last year he was part of an eight-man team of injured veterans involved in a cycle race across the US from Washington to California.
He says: “You’ve got to take yourself out of your comfort zone. If you sit there and just remain comfortable you’ll never do anything in life.”
The pupils then discuss the types of difficulties they face. For most, Josh’s story of triumph over adversity has put everything into perspective.
“It gave me a different way of seeing things,” says Israel Bankole, 14.
Kiera Hewitt-Smith, 13, adds: “When you hear that, you realise that even if things seem difficult you should be grateful.”
Those behind the Making Generation R scheme have been hearing similar words up and down the country, having reached 22,000 students so far.
“Learning to be resilient can make a big difference to young people,” says Grace Staniland of the Drive Project, which is working with Blesma to teach public speaking to 54 former forces personnel.
“It helps to develop self-esteem and self-confidence.”
Josh tells me: “We’re showing students they have always got a chance. We are showing them nothing in life is easy.
“You have to work for it.”
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