A BRAVE soldier who lost his legs in an explosion while serving in Afghanistan says it will be an honour to carry the Olympic torch in his home county.
Sgt Rick Clement (32), originally from Chatburn but now living in Blackpool, will be a torchbearer on a stretch of the seaside resort’s promenade.
He will carry the flame tomorrow (Friday) in his wheelchair and said: “It was an honour in itself to have just been nominated.”
Rick had been serving in Helmand Province for less than a month when he was almost killed in the explosion, which saw him lose both legs and suffer terrible internal injuries.
He joined the Army straight from school and, after an initial phase with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, transferred to the infantry and the 1st Battalion of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.
Rick had three tours of duty in Northern Ireland and one in Iraq before deployment to Afghanistan in 2010.
It was two weeks out of Camp Bastion and he was the third man in a foot patrol when the explosion happened. He said: “I heard a bang, everything went dark and I was disoriented. It wasn’t until I heard the guys coming around to give treatment that I realised it was me.”
Rick was conscious throughout, but it was not until he was back at his forward operating base waiting to be evacuated that he was able to find out what had happened. “One of my close friends in the base came over to treat me and I asked him to be honest with me, and so he told me I had lost both of my legs,” said Rick.
Rick was induced into a coma by doctors on board the military helicopter, received life-saving treatment at the British military hospital at Camp Bastion, and from there was transported to Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham. He woke two weeks later to begin his long road to recovery with help from staff at Headley Court, the Armed Forces rehabilitation centre.
Rick, who is married to Leanne and has two children Kyle, aged six, and Erin, aged 10, said: “It has been difficult at times, particularly when you realise how much your life has changed. But once you get down to Headley Court and see others who have been injured before, and how they have progressed, it gets easier.
Now Rick is focused on his moment in the Olympic spotlight. He said: “I have been watching the other torchbearers on the news and it has been fantastic. I think Blackpool will see a really good turnout, I am just hoping the weather will turn out as well.”
Rick is due to carry the Olympic Torch for 500 metres along the Promenade, starting outside the Queensgate Hotel, Derby Road. at approximately 6-15 p.m.