Preston army veteran who lost both legs and an arm in Afghanistan says "sacrifice was for nothing" after Taliban recapture country

A Preston army veteran who lost both his legs and an arm serving in Afghanistan has questioned whether his sacrifice "was for nothing" as the Taliban recaptures the country following the departure of US and British forces.

Sunday, 15th August 2021, 8:21 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 9:09 am
British Army veteran and Invictus Games gold medallist Dave Watson, from Preston, training here for the discus throw. Picture by Shaun Richardson

Father-of-two Dave Watson, of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, was just 22-years-old when he was deployed to Afghanistan to fight Taliban insurgents in the war-torn nation.

But on his first tour in May 2010, the young soldier from Walton-le-Dale stood on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) whilst on a routine foot patrol.

"I remember hearing the click, but by then it was too late," said the 33-year-old. "My life flashed before my eyes and I thought this is it, I’m going."

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Dave Watson with Invictus Games founder and patron Prince Harry. Pic: Dave Watson

"I died three times on the way home at 37,000ft but they somehow brought me back."

His injuries were devastating. He lost both his legs below the knee and his right arm above the elbow.

In the 10 years since his world was "turned upside down" in Afghanistan, Dave has dedicated his life to inspiring others. He is now a motivational speaker who tours Britain helping people overcome their own hardships and fulfill their potential.

Dave with his wife Rebecca and their two daughters. The family now live in the Midlands. Pic: Dave Watson

But watching the events unfold in Afghanistan on Sunday (August 15), Dave says it feels like his life-changing injury "was for nothing" after the Taliban captured Kabul and took control of the country.

The Taliban takeover comes as US and British armed forces completed their withdrawal from the country, 20 years after American troops first invaded in 2001.

"I hate to say it. But it does feel like everything we've sacrificed was for nothing," says Dave.

"After two decades and thousands of lives lost - as well as soldiers like myself that have suffered life-changing injuries - it's very upsetting to see what has happened in the last 24 hours.

Scots Guardsman Dave Watson, aged 22, ahead of his first tour of Afghanistan in 2010. Pic: Dave Watson

"Watching the news this morning, I just kept thinking about all the families whose lives were ripped apart because their sons and daughters died fighting for peace in Afghanistan.

"People like me have had their lives turned upside down and there's thousands of us. And it's not just life-changing physical injuries like mine. There's an ongoing mental health crisis among our veterans who served over there.

"People are haunted by what they saw in Afghanistan and they are struggling to live a full life because of PTSD. The effect of this war on our veterans has been huge.

"So today is a tough day for me, as it will be for many others. It feels like a defeat. But if I'm going to be honest, I'm not surprised it ended like this."

Dave says President Biden's decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan, followed by British forces, was "probably the right thing to do".

"It's been 20 years now and the fact is, we can't stay there forever," says Dave. "Biden is right. Sadly, the Afghan forces will need to step up and fight for their own country. If we had stayed, we might have been there for another 20 years.

"I love my country and I don't regret serving in Afghanistan for one minute. What happened there made me who I am today. If I hadn’t been in Afghanistan and I hadn’t been blown up, I wouldn’t have won the medals I’ve won. I wouldn’t have met my wife at a charity event, I wouldn’t have my kids.

"But it is very upsetting to see all that we worked for - all the sacrifices made by our boys and girls over there, and all the progress, freedoms and security we brought to the Afghan people - just disappear overnight.

"It's like pressing reset. After all that effort, all the pain and sacrifice, all those lives changed forever - including my own. It does makes you think, was it all worth it?"

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