One of the things that I enjoy most in my new life is the schools programme put together by the Pilgrimbandits.
I visit schools and other groups, mostly here in Doncaster but also all over the country, and talk to the children, not about war but about coping with disability and always trying your absolute best, never giving in, or letting anyone else decide what you can and can’t do.
I take my treasures. My medals, the maroon machine otherwise known as my beret, my prosthetic legs, my Olympic torch, the world championship belt given to me by Mike Tyson, and lots of photographs and other awards. Oh, and not forgetting my teddy bear Bombardier Benny Bear, also known as the adjutant.
I introduce myself, then my mum tells the kids a little bit about what has happened to me. I then show a DVD about my adventures, and then they are allowed to ask any and all questions that come into their mind, and pass round and handle everything that I’ve brought in, even my legs!
We reckon about 10,000 children have held my Olympic torch and that’s how it should be.
I have to be honest, the little ones are my favourite, usually aged from four upwards.
Children never have a problem with my speech, and are never thrown by a bloke with no legs sitting in front of them.
The questions they ask are absolutely amazing. Most want to know about my pets and my favourite colour. One little boy asked me recently: “What colour is the army?”
“Green,” I replied, “Unless you’re somewhere hot and then it’s yellow.”
Someone always asks me about my gun, and if I have had to fight. I always tell them – yes, but that fighting does not make you a harder or a stronger person. It is the worst part of your job and means that everything else has failed. No-one ever wins when you fight, and there must always be another way except in the very worst case.
One brilliant little lad was showing me the model octopus he had made in class. His mate laughed because it only had six tentacles. Quick as a flash he said: “Well it does now because it’s been to Afghanistan like Ben.”
Anyone who would like a school visit can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Ben Parkinson was seriously injured while serving in Afghanistan as a paratrooper. His injuries where so severe that he had been described as the most seriously wounded British soldier to survive his injuries.
Even though he was told he would never walk again, he has walked on prosthetic legs and was one of the torch carriers for the Doncaster leg of the London 2012 Olympic torch relay.
He was awarded the MBE in 2013 for his services to charity.
Ben Parkinson, Doncaster’s wounded war hero.