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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 December 2007, 04:33 GMT
Injured soldier back home for Christmas
By Mark Simpson
BBC News

Ben Parkinson with his mum
Ben Parkinson is being treated at Headley Court in Surrey
Ben Parkinson is believed to be the most severely-injured British serviceman to survive his wounds.

After 15 months in hospital, the 23-year-old is back in Yorkshire for Christmas.

Lance Bombadier Ben Parkinson broke his back, legs, skull, pelvis, nose, jaw and cheekbone, but he is still able to fight. And what is more, he is winning.

Depression has not dragged him down, even though the strapping, tall, handsome paratrooper is now a shadow of his former self.

Incredibly, the fact that he cannot currently walk or speak has not stopped him believing that some day he might.

This time last year he was in a coma after a landmine explosion in Afghanistan; now he's back in Yorkshire celebrating Christmas with his family.

For Ben, the impossible is a challenge, not an impediment.

His days of fighting the Taleban or al-Qaeda may be over, but he is now throwing the same level of dedication and determination into his recovery battle.

No regrets

But is he bitter about his injuries? Does he regret joining the army?

Before asking him that question, I checked with his mother, Diane, if she felt it was appropriate.

"No problem. Go and ask him. I know what he is going to say," she said, leading me into the living room where Ben was sitting in his motorised wheelchair.

During an interview with Ben, I asked the question - given what he's been through, did he now regret becoming a soldier?

Ben started moving his right hand towards a computer keyboard on his lap.

With his right index finger, he started typing slowly, very slowly.

Each letter took him up to 10 seconds to write.

His hand is shaky so hitting the right key takes a huge effort. First he hit "n". I knew then what he was going to write, and waited for the "o".

I was wrong. I had fallen in to the trap of under-estimating Ben Parkinson. He didn't hit "o". He hit "e". Then "v". Then "e". Then "r".

Just saying "no" wasn't the Parkinson way.

He wanted to write "never", in spite of the extra time, effort and concentration required.

Ben Parkinson before he was injured
Despite his injuries, Ben does not regret becoming a soldier

We were speaking inside his family's home in south Yorkshire.

He is home for two weeks, before returning to the Headley Court military rehabilitation centre in Surrey.

The hope is that one day soon, he can come back to the newly-bought bungalow in South Yorkshire and live there permanently.

Plans are already being made to make the necessary modifications to cope with his disabilities.

It will all cost money, and his mum, Diane, is not sure whether, long term, she will have enough to give Ben the life she feels he deserves.

What the family is not short of, is love.

Ben is smothered in affection. From his 23-year-old twin-brother Danny to his young step-sister Emma, he is surrounded by people who adore him.

But they want to give him something more.

And that is why they have employed the Irwin Mitchell law firm to help them pursue a possible High Court action against the Ministry of Defence.

Diane has spearheaded a campaign to raise the maximum amount of compensation which injured soldiers can claim. The current limit is set at 285,000.

Mother's campaign

Ben's trip home has given him the chance to make his views public about his mother's campaign.

He insisted it wasn't just about him - but all badly-hurt soldiers.

He tapped into his computer: "For all the lads to get more".

The MoD points out that the compensation money is only part of the financial package for injured servicemen.

They are also entitled to a guaranteed income payment, which amounts to hundreds of thousands of pounds over a lifetime.

Diane is not satisfied by that, and her legal campaign could ultimately end up in the European courts.

For the moment, though, her focus is on Christmas.

She can still hardly believe her son is home, and able to sample "normal" life again.

"It is a very special time. To get him home for Christmas is Christmas in every sense of the word," she said.

As for Ben, he astounded the doctors with a series of improvements in 2007, and is setting himself new targets for 2008.

One thing is for sure - this is not the last in the series of Parkinson.

Background to Ben Parkinson's injuries

Injured para's payout 'too low'
11 Oct 07 |  South Yorkshire
New payout hope for injured Para
02 Sep 07 |  South Yorkshire
Maimed soldier 'let down' by Army
28 Aug 07 |  South Yorkshire
Ministers 'failing UK soldiers'
15 Aug 07 |  UK Politics

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