Katie Mansfield found out how pupils at a Billericay school were left inspired after a talk by double amputee Duncan Slater who trekked 200 miles to the South Pole with Prince Harry.
Sgt Duncan Slater, who had to have both of his legs amputated after the vehicle he was travelling in was blown up in Afghanistan in 2009, visited students at St John’s School Billericay on Friday, 21 March.
Dedicating his life to the R.A.F. for over a decade, Duncan was parachute qualified and worked mainly with airborne units.
In July 2009 whilst serving in Afghanistan in an area called Babaji during operation ‘Panthers Claw’, an Improvised Explosive Device (I.E.D.) blew up Duncan’s vehicle.
The only unbroken part of his body was his right arm. After 12 months of rehab it became clear that both legs must be amputated in order for Duncan to be able to walk pain free and get on with his life with his wife and their newborn daughter.
Now Sgt Slater is the first double amputee to reach the South Pole and his efforts alongside 20 teammates including Prince Harry will be televised on Sunday.
Excited pupils aged 3-16 asked Sgt Slater plenty of questions about how many pairs of prosthetic legs he owns (“Lots, swimming, running, you name it I’ve got them”, he joked) , what it was like to meet Prince Harry and how long he was away from home.
Sgt Slater told the awe-struck students how during the 208-mile (335km) Walking With The Wounded South Pole Allied Challenge he and his teammates survived in temperatures which plummeted to -50°c.
Students heard how some of his teammates suffered frostbite, fluid on the lungs and from post traumatic stress disorder, but still carried on, completing the trek in two weeks.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Sgt Slater"]In the British team we only had four legs between us and three arms. The charity’s aim was to show you can still do things, extreme stuff, if you put yourself out there and get on with it.[/quote]
Sgt Slater told students that one benefit of being a double amputee was the amount of space he had in his tent. “My teammate was a single amputee so we had bags of room in there, half the roll mat, it was great!”
Now after safely returning home to Diss in Norfolk to his wife and four-year-old daughter Sgt Slater is preparing for his next challenge- the London Marathon. “I’ve never done one before,” he explains. “Before losing my legs I wasn’t even a runner but now I’ve got my blades and I need to really get to it! They’re brilliant as they feel like a spring. I’m hoping to complete it in four hours.”
He also continues to work with Walking With The Wounded going into schools telling students about his experiences.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Sgt Slater told the Enquirer"]I’m still working with the charity since coming back. There’s a charity that helps amputee children in Africa, the Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope, and I’ve become their official ambassador. It’s something great that’s come out of this. These guys provide low cost prosthetics to children and it’s very close to my heart, they’re only kids.[/quote]
Helen Studd, head of community services and fundraising at St Jon’s School said: “We count ourselves very lucky to have such an inspirational person visit us. It gives us all something to aspire to.”
Headteacher Fiona Armour echoed these sentiments and told the children: “If you all grow up and become as brave as Duncan I will be very proud of you.”
The school will now take part in a national fundraiser for the charity which will see pupils take part in a 200m three-legged race to raise over £1,600 on 2 May.
Watch episode two of Sgt Slater’s trek to the South Pole on Sunday, 8pm, ITV, Harry’s South Pole Heroes.
Article and image sourced from the Enquirer by Katie Mansfield