Garry Morrison

Garry Morrison (Cpl), 35, served nine years in the RAF. The father-of-two has undergone 14 back operations after snapping his spine in two places in a parachute accident in 2003 and recently lost his sight after contracting chicken pox as an adult. After he was made redundant from his job on an oil rig he was left with no permanent place to live and failing eyesight. 

Garry, who is originally from Northern Ireland, now lives in St Andrew’s after serving at Leuchars. He said: “I always wanted to join the RAF. I wanted to see the world and I did see a lot. I had good times when I was in Germany and Holland representing the RAF. I used to do a lot of target shooting and won quite a lot of medals and trophies.

Taking part in the army competition at Blackdog Ranges and shooting against teams from across the military was a career highlight. We won the silver Artillery Trumpet which is presented to the best overall non-infantry Tri-service team. In 2005 I went to Holland for a world championships and was ranked 5th. That was an amazing week.

“Unfortunately I had a parachute accident in 2003 and I snapped my spine in two places. I did 494 jumps and then I had a bad one. I was 23 at the time and it meant I had to learn to crawl and walk again. I had to learn to jog and then how to pass my RAF fitness test. I was in rehab for about three or four years. Fourteen back operations later and I have another one due the start of next year (2017).”

After the injury Garry was put on lighter duties and then started teaching which he did from 2005 until he left the RAF in 2009. He said: “When I left the RAF I was trying to get a job on the rigs offshore and then when I finally did I was doing crazy shifts. I was pretty run down and I caught chicken pox. I thought I had had it when I was a boy so I didn’t realise what it was to start with and I kept saying I was fine but after a couple of weeks I realised something was really wrong. It took first my left eye and then my right eye. It was soul-destroying really, feeling my sight just fading and fading and then go. 2015 was an unbelievable year for all the wrong reasons. I also got sent some forms for my spinal surgery but I was unable to read them so I got put to the back of the queue and now have to wait until next year.

“I was away so much when I was working on the rig it seemed a waste to pay for somewhere to live so I was staying between five friends when I was at home and living out of a bag. When I started to lose my sight I didn’t have a permanent place to live. I had been made redundant in the March and my savings lasted until the July and then I thought what do I do? I didn’t have a job, I had nowhere to live and I was going blind. I was really stressed out at that point. Then I found out about SSAFA and that was a huge relief. They were amazing and I’m really, really thankful.

“I actually didn’t realise I could just phone SSAFA and ask for help and I initially called on behalf of a friend who lives nearby. Davy Young and Phil Mould at SSAFA’s Fife office have been great. SSAFA have provided all the carpets for my home and all my kitchen goods and the Fife Society for the Blind has marked everything up for me so I can do things like put on a wash myself. The technology available is amazing. I’ve now discovered you can even get a gadget that reads your mail to you. All of the help I’ve had this year has been amazing.

“At the moment I’m kind of stuck at home unless I’m with someone but I’ve been approved for a guide dog now so I’m just waiting for one to be available. It’s incredibly frustrating because I used to be able to run 8-10 miles a day but it’s all about learning life again. You have good days and bad days but you just have to stand up and get on with things.”

Garry had our back and so we had his. If you served or are serving and need some support, get in touch: https://www.ssafa.org.uk/gotyourback