Louis Smit, originally from South Africa, served with 2 Para for 10 years. Married with two children, Louis was medically discharged from the Army in 2013 after he was seriously injured in Afghanistan. With SSAFA's help, he is currently retraining as an electrician.
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Louis, who now lives in Berkshire, said: “I was in the parachute regiment in South Africa initially but I came over to the UK and redid my training here. It took me six months to get into the Army but I have been here 14 years now.
“I have done two tours of Iraq and two of Afghanistan. I also did a tour of Burundi when I was in the South African Army. I was actually blown up on my little boy’s birthday in 2011. I was in Helmand on patrol and a hand grenade got thrown over a wall and landed right next to me so my leg got badly injured.”
Although surgeons were able to save his leg, Louis had no feeling in the limb and ultimately made the difficult decision to have his leg removed to improve his mobility. He has since climbed Kilimanjaro and recently became the first amputee to do a military static line jump with military round static line parachute, commemorating the 72nd anniversary of Operation Overlord and the D-Day landings in Normandy.
Now Louis is focusing on retraining as an electrician and SSAFA been able to assist him with sourcing funding for tools, training and fuel costs. He said: “It’s quite an intensive course and obviously there are some limitations for me with things like getting up ladders but you learn to adapt. I have bought myself a special ladder and although getting in and out of confined spaces is sometimes difficult I can just take my leg off. My SSAFA caseworker John has been absolutely fantastic. I had a bit of an accident in my shower and injured my hand quite badly about 15 months ago which is why he got involved in the first place.”
SSAFA is now supporting Louis through the process of getting a more appropriate walk-in shower and has also sourced funding to make his garden more accessible. He said: “The most important thing to me at the moment is passing my course. I have put everything on hold to focus on it because it is important for our future.”