Simon Brown was a soldier fighting in Iraq in 2006 when he was shot by a sniper, changing his life forever. He decided to open up to five year-old Temperance Pattinson, from Darlington in the U.K., as part of the Facing it Together campaign. Her reaction to his story was caught on video, and was uncomfortable viewing.
Facing It Together is a project run by the veterans’ charity Help for Heroes. It aims to put the charity’s beneficiaries on camera with their supporters, those people who donate their time and money to help. Their conversations are then recorded for the public to see.
Brown, or “Si” as he is introduced in the video, agreed to be featured on camera with his supporter, Tempy. Si has been through a great deal, having suffered a terrible injury during a mission in Iraq. In 2006, he was shot by a sniper.
The bullet hit him in the face, going into one cheek and exiting via his other cheek. In essence, it caused massive damage, particularly to his eyes. The wound left Si in a coma for 18 days, but the real problems were yet to come for this brave soldier.
After his injury, Si faced a long road to recovery. He underwent a series of 25 operations in an effort to reconstruct his face. Unfortunately, the damage to his eyes wasn’t repairable, and Si was left without most of his vision, changing his life forever.
Once he had healed, Si became involved with the Help for Heroes charity. Speaking to U.K. channel ITV, he explained that it was important for people to see past a soldier’s disfiguring injuries. He said, “It was that platform, the support, that got behind us. There was a time when soldiers weren’t very proud.”
Si explained to ITV, “We weren’t getting the greatest press and sometimes you were embarrassed to go out in the street with your injuries. This platform meant that we didn’t have to hide the scars… facing it together with all the little stars that raise the money and give us these opportunities, it’s just phenomenal for me to be involved.”
One of the “little stars” Si mentioned was Tempy. She was three years old when she had learned about Remembrance Day, having bought her first poppy to commemorate the fallen. From then on, this young girl had felt the need to help soldiers and their loved ones.
Subsequently, Tempy did everything she could to help raise money for soldiers in need of help. In fact, this five year old took part in charity runs and even completed more than one triathlon. She had to do the cycling section with stabilizers, having not actually learned to cycle without them yet.
It was these efforts that led to her taking part in the Facing it Together video with Si. The 38-year-old veteran opened up to Tempy, telling her his story. That was when Tempy responded, and her reaction on camera was remarkable.
“Even though I didn’t know any of the soldiers, I just thought that they did something for us,” Tempy told Si during their conversation. “I thought I could give a present back to them by raising them money. I’m quite proud of the soldiers.”
Si was clearly touched by her response and said, “Well, I’m telling you now that the soldiers are very proud of you, because I’m 38 and a half, and I can’t do a triathlon.” At this point in their conversation, Tempy revealed her fear of cycling, and that she needed stabilizers.
Ultimately, Si wanted to let his new friend know how grateful he was for her help. He said, “It’s because of the challenges that you do and the money you raise and the support you get that people like me can get better. So that’s why people like you are our heroes.”
Then Tempy says something that’s sure to tug the heartstrings of anyone who sees the video. She says that she considers people such as Si to be her heroes. It is this kind of relationship, the one between supporters and beneficiaries, that Help for Heroes is so keen to highlight.
The video of the pair talking has been very popular, with 1.7 million views and users sharing the video more than 17,000 times. But that hasn’t been the only positive result of their conversation. Since talking, Si and Tempy have become fast friends, and teamed up to further help the cause.
Tempy and Si decided to do a 5k run together in aid of Help for Heroes. And Si was waiting for Tempy on the finish line when she got to the end, to congratulate her. The pair exchanged a hug and smiled for photos afterwards.
Tempy’s mum Emily thinks Help for Heroes’ scheme has been very positive. Speaking to U.K. newspaper The Sun, she said, “Meeting people like Simon makes such a difference, because it allows you to put a face to it and see the difference it makes to people’s lives.”
Tempy and Si aren’t the only success story to come out of the Facing it Together project. Another pair, Ken Nash and Philippa Haig, had an important conversation about post traumatic stress disorder. Although not a physical injury like Simon Brown’s, PTSD is a serious problem for those leaving the armed forces.
Ken told Philippa about his condition, and how art has helped him. He said, “I had a lot of paranoias when I first came out, and I always thought people were talking about me. I got into charcoal drawing, all my nightmares were in black and white, so I just used to get up in the middle of the night and just draw.”
The Advocacy Ambassador for Help for Heroes, Mark Elliot, is delighted with the way that stories such as Si and Tempy’s can help their cause. He told U.K. newspaper the Daily Mail, “It is so important that people from completely different backgrounds and ages can connect through a common cause.”