A SOLDIER who lost both his legs in a bomb blast in Afghanistan is looking forward to civilian life again after being discharged from the Army.
Jay Baldwin’s 12-year military career was brought to a close on August 10, when he was medically discharged, two-and-a-half years after he suffered devastating injuries while serving his country.
The father of three’s life changed forever when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in January 2012, while preparing to engage a group of insurgents.
Jay is now looking forward to fully rejoining civilian life and starting a whole new career – a challenge he admits will be difficult to adapt to but is relishing.
Especially now that he is free to grow a beard without fear of a reprimand from his superior officers.
Jay, 29, said: “I was expecting to have a feeling of ‘I’m free!’ when I officially left the British Army but it was very understated.
“I spoke to someone I had never met in my military life before and that was it.
“It was very different to joining, which was full of ceremony and certificates.
“It was an emotional moment, though.
“I gave 12 years of my life to the British Army and when I look back you cannot buy the personal experiences I have gained.
“I have no regrets, despite my injuries. Some of my friends are still serving and I am proud of what they are doing.
“This is a fresh start for me and my family now.
“In a way I have left a strict family. During my rehab I still had to visit military centres every couple of weeks and I would have superiors asking why I hadn’t shaved and pointing out I still needed to look the part.
“Now I have been a civilian for over a week I have started growing a beard.”
Jay was a sergeant in the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment 1st Battalion.
He was injured when just 15 days from returning home from Afghanistan. His right leg was blown off and his left leg was shredded down to the bone.
He still managed to co-ordinate parts of his own rescue, though.
Jay underwent emergency surgery to remove his left leg above the knee and what remained of his right leg was cut away through the kneecap.
Kindhearted residents in Crawley who heard his story got behind Jay and his family at the time, raising about £6,000 to support them – something Jay says he will always be grateful for.
Jay, from St Aidan Close in Southgate, has remained upbeat throughout what happened and has spent time learning to walk on artificial legs, playing golf and coaching a team at Three Bridges Football Club.
He is now preparing to look for a job and find a new purpose to drive him on.
“I want to live my life,” he added.
“After I suffered my injuries I knew I wouldn’t be medically fit enough to continue a role in the Army so I worked on my rehab and gaining a new civilian qualification in first aid training.
“My life is secure financially as well as my home thanks to the support from the British Army but I still have the desire to achieve more.
“Instructing has been an important part of my career. In the Army I made sure the guys had the right weapon training, set up search drills and any new drills in the field they required.
“Learning how to instruct first aid appealed me to because that instructing role is what I’ve always known.
“I am very open minded to what career I join. I want to work, I will go crazy if I stay at home for too long.
“I need a job that when the alarm wakes me up in the morning I have that sense of urgency to get up and work.
“I hope in a few years time I will have a civilian CV to match my 12 years in the British Army.”