“There was a deafening noise. In the middle of a war zone the IED threat is massive, so I immediately understood I’d been blown up. The first thing I checked was my legs to check if they were still attached.”
Steve Owen was serving with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers when, during a mission in Afghanistan, his vehicle was struck by an IED. Luckily, Steve escaped the explosion with his life and body intact, however the damage he sustained led to significant, prolonged issues with his right leg. After years of frequent pain and numerous health complications, Steve asked his surgeon to amputate.
This is his story.
Joining the military as a teenager
I'd always had an interest in the military. Both my granddads served in the Second World War and I really used to enjoy listening to their stories and just spending time with them. I later joined the Army myself. My son was 6 months old at the time, but the prospect of serving my country spurred me on.
When I joined, Iraq had kicked off and Afghan was starting to bubble, but rather than scaring me, it pushed me even more. It’s what I, and everyone I trained with, had signed up for. To fight and serve our country. We were excited, we were nervous, we were upset at leaving people behind, but one thing we all agreed on was that we were going to do our job. We were going to war to fight.
We were 100% committed to it.
I was posted to Afghanistan aged 19 and served with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers for 8 years. I absolutely would have served even longer, but in 2010 an incident in Afghanistan changed my life forever.
Being struck by an IED
In 2010, my vehicle, a Jackal, was struck by an improvised explosive device.
After extracting myself and the driver from the vehicle I remember starting to drift off, but not in the same way you drift off when you’re falling asleep. It felt different. I had no energy whatsoever.
I remember looking at my mate and asking him to pull out the picture of my wife and son that I kept inside my vest. Seeing it gave me a new wave of energy that I hadn’t had, it kept me awake until I reached the medical professionals on the helicopter. I firmly believe it was that picture that saved my life.
Recovering from the explosion
Despite surviving the explosion, I sustained severe damage to my right leg and experienced several health complications. I was determined to continue serving in the Army, but it would take time for me to recover.
I was called in to see my Platoon Commander. He told me they were deploying again in 18 months and asked if I wanted to go with them and if I would be well enough. I spoke to my family and we decided I was going. I felt like I was in my childhood again, fighting to get fit so that I could join the Army. Those 18 months were some of the hardest of my life. It was gruelling.
In the end, I managed to be redeployed, but despite training hard, my leg was still causing significant issues and severe pain. I was eventually discharged from the military due to health complications.
Choosing to have his leg amputated
I went through further physical rehabilitation and became a Close Protection Officer until, in 2016, the pain in my leg grew suddenly worse.
I remember sitting at home with my feet up on the coffee table, just chilling out, when I had this intense pain fly through my body. I thought I had a blood clot which had travelled to my lungs because I couldn't breathe properly. I went to hospital, had a couple more operations on my leg and I was basically told that two nerves were touching each other – I was never going to get full function back.
This led to me making a decision that would change my life forever – I asked to have my leg amputated. That was a new start for the rest of my life.
Going the extra mile
Four months after having my leg amputated, I undertook a 26-mile sponsored walk to see how far I could push myself on the new leg. I had only been physically capable of walking for three weeks at the time, and hadn’t planned to finish the whole marathon, but by the time I reached the halfway point I knew I had to keep going.
I was in absolute agony, but by this point I couldn't pull my prosthetic off because, if I did, my leg would be too swollen to get it back in. You’ve got to remember, your stump isn't like your feet, there's no hard skin there - it’s totally soft. I got to mile 20 and by this point I was leaning against the hedge. I felt like I couldn’t take another step. My wife came up and told me to get on the minibus, but I knew if I got on the minibus, that was it. I decided I was going to take one more step, and if I could manage that step, I was going to take a second step.
I took the first step and it nearly floored me, then I took the second step and that one was worse. But, by that point, I’d done two steps, so I thought ‘well, I’ve got to do it now.’ By the end my leg was leaking hydraulic fluid everywhere.
457 laps for 457 soldiers
In 2021, I completed another sponsored walk of 457 laps of a sports track, to commemorate the 457 British Service Personnel who died while serving in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2021. The challenge took 48 hours over a total of 113 miles. I didn’t sleep through the whole two days and raised a total of £4,864 – money which was split between Woody’s Lodge, a signposting service for those who have served in the Armed Forces or Emergency Services, and Scotty’s Little Soldiers, the charity for bereaved military children.
In the end, I wouldn’t change anything that happened. It’s made me who I am, taught me to be a stronger person. I don’t have any regrets. You’d never learn anything if nothing ever went wrong. You just have to keep going.
Fear Naught is owned and operated by Scotty's Little Soldiers and 100% of our profits allow us to support bereaved military children and young people around the UK through an effective combination of practical, emotional and educational support. Scotty's support young people who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces. We offer a range of services designed to connect our members and create a community of bereaved military children built around mutual support.