A SOLDIER who lost both his legs when he stepped on a bomb in Afghanistan will celebrate his 21st birthday at home in Sherborne next week.
Jason Gould, 20, a soldier in the Grenadier Guards, will join his mum Sue, 46, brother Henry, 19, and sister Katie, 15, next Friday during a three-week break from his rehabilitation programme at Headley Court, Surrey.
In July the former Gryphon School student was left fighting for his life when he suffered 25 injuries – including the loss of both his legs – as he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Rahim, Afghanistan.
Mr Gould was leading soldiers towards a compound and the Taliban front line when he was catapulted into the air by the blast.
He said: “I remember almost every minute of the explosion.
“We were moving across a completely flooded field. The only way to test the ground’s safety was to tread and check with your feet.
“I took half a step forward and then everything happened in slow motion.
“I heard the click of the two metal plates. Everything went red and blurry.
“I felt the most horrendous pins and needles and I saw my leg disappearing in front of me. It wasn’t even exploding, it was just evaporating.”
Mr Gould’s right leg was hanging off below the knee and his rifle had smashed into his face, shattering his jaw and causing blood to pour out of a large wound underneath his chin.
His hands were damaged and his thumbs were missing. His left arm was in tatters, with severe nerve damage, his ear drums were perforated and he was suffering severe internal injuries.
Mr Gould said sheer determination kept him alive.
He said: “I’ve always been a fighter. I knew if I let myself lose consciousness my brain and body would lose the battle, so I lay there and I thought of home and everything that could keep me from drifting off. It was so hard but I wasn’t going to give up.
“It was the others I felt sorry for. They had to carry me, the equivalent of their own body weight, back as quickly as possible, all the time watching for other dangers.”
Mr Gould was rushed to Camp Bastion before being flown to an intensive care unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. He underwent ten operations in less than a month and was unable to drink or eat properly for two months. He is now in the early stages of his Headley Court programme.
Mr Gould added: “I suffered horrible hallucinations. I am the biggest lover of food but my mouth was dry for two months.”
Mum Sue said it had been a “horrific” year but she was so pleased to have Jason home.
She said: “He is so lucky to be alive. It has changed our lives and it was like going into a different world.
“He’s making great progress and the doctors are very impressed with him. But Headley Court will be his life for many years to come.”
Mr Gould had always dreamed of a life in the army.
He said: “I left school at 16 to have this job. I loved my time there and I would go back and do every single moment again. I miss my platoon and my mates. I think you prepare yourself for the injuries, every day you saw civilians and soldiers injured.
“As soon as I went on the ground I had already considered myself a dead man. It is war. What’s happened has happened. I take each day as it comes and now I will just set myself small goals each day.”
Since July friends have raised thousands of pounds for Mr Gould.
His mum said: “We want to thank everyone who has supported us and helped to fundraise, we don’t even know who half of the people are but we are very grateful.”
Donations are being made to Lieutenant Dave Anderson, Royal Navy Observer, who is taking part in Movember at RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall. He decided to raise money for Mr Gould after hearing of his injuries and has raised more than £1,000 so far. All donations made to the Rotary Charity Fundraisers, operated by members of the Rotary Club of Sherborne Castles and Rotary Club of Sherborne, will be donated to Jason and his family. Visit www.justgiving.com/SKASaCbeards