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THE documentary Wounded made for uncomfortable viewing. Uncomfortable but essential.

Sara Hardy's groundbreaking film followed the fortunes of two badly injured soldiers flown home from Afghanistan for treatment and therapy.

There was no better way to bring home the horror of war than the personal stories of Andy Allen and Tom Neathway. Andy lost both legs and was blinded in an explosion. Tom lost both legs and an arm when he moved a booby-trapped sandbag. There were moments of high drama including Army footage showing the moment Andy was injured.

But there were also heart-stopping moments showing in graphic detail the extent of injuries, the operations that were carried out, and the gruelling physical therapy needed. Weaving through it all were the personal tragedies and hopes of two boy soldiers. Tom, despite the loss of three limbs, was determined to get back on his feet.

That's not meant as a joke, although it might sound like one, but a tribute to his courage. I choked up when the recovering soldier was refused permission to rejoin his regiment in Cyprus at the end of their tour of duty.

Just as I cheered when he showed grit by making sure he could walk on prosthetic limbs at the regimental award ceremony attended by Prince Charles.

Cameras followed his progress from socalled stubbies - mini-legs meant as a training aid - to the long metal legs reminiscent of cyborgs in sci-fi films. An inspiration? You bet.

Andy's story was no less inspirational, even though he had a hard time struggling to cope.

His blindness, on top of the loss of his legs, was an added complication to his recovery. If he was a little uncooperative in his treatment, if he swore a bit, who could blame him? But in the end, he too pulled himself up. The scenes where he was introduced to his new baby, conceived before his injury, would have warmed the coldest of hearts.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the war, here were the human consequences of the conflict.

The film was a tribute to their courage and the professionalism of the doctors and nurses, military and NHS, who treated them. It is a dirty war and I was shocked to hear an Army commander talk about how bombs are packed with metal and dirt - even animal and human faeces - to cause the maximum physical and toxic damage.

I hope the programme was watched by the top brass and the politicians who sent the soldiers to Afghanistan.

And I hope they learn the lesson to do everything in their power to protect our troops.

They can do no less for the likes of Andy and Tom.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 26, 2009
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