By Lucy Notarantonio
A hero soldier who survived two tours of Iraq and Afghanistan has spoken about how he suffered a massive brain injury after he was attacked on a night out when he was home on leave.
Sergeant Daniel O’Sullivan, 41, was left fighting for his life when he returned to the UK after being beaten with a traffic cone filled with sand numerous times.
The savage attack – which took place during a night out in Wolverhampton, West Mids, – caused the former infantryman’s time in the army to be cut short after 16 years.
Daniel from Camden, London, was left in a coma for seven months after he was attacked and now says the damage to his brain left him having to re-learn how to walk, talk and drive – and says he couldn’t have done it without the support of the Royal British Legion.
He is now training to be a personal trainer.
Daniel said: “I joined the Army when I was 18 years old and during my time, I saw a lot of horrific scenes from firefighting every day in Afghan to losing two of my very close friends.
“I don’t remember what happened during that night out in Wolverhampton, but my attackers clearly didn’t like the look of me and decided to launch a savage attack.
“According to witnesses, we had a row and 30 minutes later they came back with a weapon and smashed it around my head from the back countless times.
“They left me for dead, the bones in my face were broken, my eye sockets were shattered, and I now have a metal plate in my jaw which is always funny when going through airport security.
“My shoulder also hasn’t completely healed since the break but at least I am still here.
“I suffered with a traumatic brain injury known as diffuse axonal which is tearing of the brain’s long connecting nerve fibres when the brain is injured.
“I now suffer with slurred speech and my balance has been affected, it is almost like I am going to fall over when I walk.
“I feel incredibly lucky to be alive as doctors told me I should be dead or at best in a ‘vegetated’ state after the attack in 2011.”
Daniel maintains a ‘military mind’ and with his determination and help from The Royal British Legion, he embarked on a week-long multi-activity course at the Legion funded Battle Back Centre in Lilleshall, Shropshire, which aids the injured wounded and sick Armed Forces veterans and since then has committed to a physical fitness programme.
He also thanks the charity for providing him with money advice, a welfare case officer to aid with admin and provide advice on opportunities to aid recovery and funding towards his broken boiler during a cold winter.
He adds: “I am so grateful for The Royal British Legion; without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“When I was at my very worst weighing 22 stone and re-learning how to walk again, they sent a lawyer to help me apply for a disabled driving licence so I can go to the gym.
“I am now a healthy 14 stone and their generous funding has allowed me to go to college and gain qualifications towards my dream of becoming a personal fitness.
“I volunteer twice a week at The Battle Back Centre, where I teach archery and give motivational speeches.
“I want other disabled veterans to hear my story and believe in themselves – if I can do it, anyone can.
“After the incident, I was very lonely with no family or friends, but the charity offered support and there was always someone there to listen.
“The charity has been the ones to help push me forward in the right direction with retraining and improving my mental and physical wellbeing.
“Once I pass my personal training course in April 2020 – I intend on setting up ‘Legend Achilles’ for disabled veterans.
“What happened to me was bad, but it opened my eyes and I do not dwell on it because there are millions of people who are worse of then me in the world.”
Daniel urges for people to buy a poppy this remembrance day [Nov 11] and says he has already purchased five.
He adds: “Rememberance day means everything to me – we wouldn’t be living the way we are now if the veterans didn’t have the courage to go to war, whether it be the wars I have fought in or the Falkland’s or even world war II.
“We wouldn’t be here happy and free.”
To seek help and advice from The Royal British Legion visit www.britishlegion.org.uk