"I'll risk my life again": Army veteran almost killed in Afghanistan wants to return to the country to spread the word of God
A former soldier who was nearly killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan says he wants to return to the country to spread the word of God.
Anthony Cooper from Euxton lost both legs below the knee, two fingers on his left hand, the finger tips on his right hand, the pupil in his right eye and the worst blast brain injury medics had seen in 25 years after stepping on an explosive during a foot patrol of Helmand Province in 2010.
He was in a coma for five weeks, with his family were warned he might not survive.
But after four years of rehabilitation at Headley Court Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre in Surrey where he had to learn to talk again, and more than a decade of determination, he is now in place to consider missionary work in the toughest of environments - and is prepared to risk death again spreading the Gospel.
>>>Read about Anthony's work with the Help for Heroes Campaign here.
Anthony says he now views his brush with death as “part of God’s plan” and tomorrow (Sunday) will cement his commitment to Christianity with a baptism at Chorley Evangelical Free Church.
“It all started when I was at war, funnily enough”, said Anthony, now 33.
“Every patrol I went out on, I prayed for my protection and my comrade’s protection. And I was protected, apart from that one patrol where I nearly died.
“But if you’re left thinking ‘why did this happen to me, there is no God’, you’re kidding yourself.”
Anthony - who joined the Army aged 16 - was serving with the Duke of Lancaster Regiment in Afghanistan in 2010 when he stepped on a 45 kilogram improvised explosive device (IED) – an explosive with enough force to blow up a truck.
He was medically evacuated back to the UK and put in an induced coma. Doctors told his family not to hold out any hope, and within days, his organs began shutting down.
Against all the odds, he has battled back and has even competed in wheelchair racing and archery at the Invictus Games, and is in training for half and full marathons.
He said: “I’m not going to lie, when I was first injured, I thought there was no such thing as God and I didn’t believe anymore.
“But then I went to Headley Court and I began speaking to the Pastor there who restored my faith.”
Anthony said at the time of his injury, he was considering joining another regiment, who were carrying out more dangerous work.
He said: “I think if I’d have joined that battalion, I could possibly be dead right now. I think God knows what’s going to happen and this was God’s way of saving me.
“He didn’t protect us all, but I had so many near-death experiences, with rounds whizzing passed my head.”
He added: “It’s all part of God’s plan and there are 1,001 things I want to do now, and right up there is spreading the Gospel into countries which don’t allow it, such as Afghanistan and China.”
Anthony said he is aware that doing this work in such countries would make him “a target”, but he is not afraid of dying.
He said: “It doesn’t bother me going back, it’s not the Afghan people who are the problem.
“I know that if I do these things, I might die, because in these countries Christianity isn’t a thing. But if I was a target, I wouldn’t mind - if I can get the Gospel out there.”
Anthony was Christened as a child into the Catholic Church but says he moved away from the denomination as he disagreed with some practices.
He asked the pastor at Headley Court to put him in touch with a church in his local area, and was directed to Chorley Evangelical Free Church.
He said: “I love it, it’s one big family. There are people who I’m not remotely related to who are like brothers and sisters to me.”
Said his Pastor, Mark Bassett, has a “massive heart” and is entirely supportive of his missionary work plans.
Mark said: “Anthony is part of the family we have here at church. We have people who are blind, deaf, and who have a number of health issues, and everyone helps and supports one another.
“Anthony sees God in his life now and before the accident, and it is inspirational to look at Anthony and what he’s been through and what he’s achieved.”
Anthony says his journey to Christ has helped him come to terms with what has happened to him, and he doesn’t go a day without praying and confessing his sins.
He said: “Every evening I go out into the back garden and I look upwards, pray and ask forgiveness, because we sin every day.
“It gives me great peace, I know he’s listening.”