'Wounded ambassadors' appointed for new veterans' charity

"Stupidity," is the one word reply Sergeant Michael Lyddiard gives when asked why he chose to become a bomb disposal expert serving in Afghanistan.

The decision left him facially disfigured, cost him much of his right arm and left him with post traumatic stress disorder when his luck ran out on November 2, 2007, during Operation Spin Gar in the Chouria Valley.

Six kilograms of explosives detonated less than an arm's length away while he was trying to disarm an improvised explosive device.

Sergeant Lyddiard, still a serving member of the Australian army, is now studying full-time to become a physiotherapist so he can help others who are learning to live with similar experiences.

He is a "wounded ambassador" for Soldier On, the newly formed and Canberra-based charity devoted to supporting servicemen and women wounded in the service of their country.

His appointment, and that of Corporal Mark Donaldson VC as the inaugural patron in chief, was formally announced by Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, at the Australian War Memorial earlier today.

While Sergeant Lyddiard is still coming to grips with the effects the injury has had on his life, he says nobody is to blame and does not back away from the decisions he had made.

"I felt it (bomb disposal) was a trade I could excel in and that could test me to the fullest," he said.

"Until it happens you never think it is going to be you. I had always told my wife the worst thing that could happen was that I'd die."

Survival is much more challenging.

"I chose to join the army - against my father's wishes; I chose to become a combat engineer and I chose to specialise in bomb disposal. I have been the master of my own destiny."

Asked if, as many now believe, the human cost of Australia's involvement in Afghanistan has been too great he vehemently disagrees and says he still totally supports the mission.

"No-one can tell me what I can and can't do," he said. "It's my right be a soldier - and if a soldier chooses it that's part of it."

All he asks is to stay in the army, to help his mates and to be treated as an equal - not a freak - by his fellow Australians.

"I don't mind Australians pointing and staring but it hurts, more so when I've got my children with me and they have to witness and tolerate the bad side of people."

The story 'Wounded ambassadors' appointed for new veterans' charity first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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