A indestructible Royal Marine earned the nickname "the commando who refused to die” when he was left “with his head hanging off” after a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan.
Paul Vice served in the Royal Marines for 16 years and says he “loved it” even though he was blown up in Iraq and then again fighting the Taliban before losing his leg and tossing it in an incinerator. But his military career came to a sudden and bloody end in January 2011.
On a tour of duty in Helmand province he caught sight of a possible IED. He said: “I was looking around and I saw these two guys in the field … I thought ‘that doesn't make sense…’”. Paul actually caught sight of the oil drum packed with explosives, moments before it detonated. “I could see this oil drum poking out from the bottom of the wall,” he recalled, “and I thought and I they got me… they finally got me”.
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He just had time to tell his mates his mates to run before the bomb exploded. “It shot me like an arrow into a wall on the other side,” he said. “I smashed my head against the wall which I think is what broke my neck”.
He describes trying to fish around inside the pockets of his uniform for a tourniquet. “That’s when my hand fell inside my neck,” he says. “I thought ‘Oh no, I’ve got big problems here…”.
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Seconds later, Paul’s mates arrived and started trying to patch him up. One friend even knelt on his neck in order to apply enough pressure to slow the massive blood loss.
“The injuries I suffered were catastrophic,” he told the Veterans' Foundation, “with a broken neck and a severed artery. I died twice on the Chinook that took me back to Camp Bastion for the surgery that ultimately saved my life”.
Paul could see the shock on his comrades’ faces: “We’re trained to ridiculously high standards in trauma management but I don't think anyone's been taught how to like treat someone with their head hanging off”.
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Apart from the broken neck and the massive blood loss, more than 400 pieces of shrapnel and stones had been fired into Paul’s body by surgeons. He also had injuries to his left eye, was deafened in one ear and suffered a stroke, a brain injury and paralysis down his right side.
These horror injuries were the worst Paul had ever suffered, but they weren’t the first: “I was blown up in Iraq in 2004, in a snatch Land Rover. That was nothing really, a few cuts and scrapes and then injured again in 2008 or 2009 and then 2011…”
The most significant problem he was left with after being “smashed up” in Afghanistan was his left leg, which was completely paralysed. Paul nicknamed the limb “the wet fish,” and decided he’d be better off without it.
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Before the surgery to amputate the troublesome limb, Paul wrote a farewell message on it, saying: “Dear leg, thanks for all the misery and admin you have caused over the last three years. I hope that incinerator is hotter than hell itself laters, you b*****d”.
Despite his grievous injuries, he has gone on to compete in the Invictus Games, collecting a fistful of medals. The biggest thrill he’s had since his injury, though, is a driving a racing car.
“I went to a track day,” he said, “it was wicked and it I'll tell you what it was it's the closest I've come to getting that buzz of kicking people's doors in buzz of like kicking people's doors in and doing business in Afghanistan or Iraq”.
And says he'll never regret joining up, saying: “They give you clothes to wear,” he says, “they give you mates, they give you somewhere to live, they let you play with guns they take you around the world, they pay you all right what's not to like?”
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