Forty years on from the Falklands War, former Welsh Guardsman, Simon Weston CBE, has been sharing his lived experience of disability and triumphing in the face of adversity.
Simon was invited to speak to military and civil service personnel at Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the procurement arm of the Ministry of Defence (MOD), in Bristol.
The event took place as part of Disability History Month, which runs until 16th December, with over 300 staff from across DE&S taking part.
Simon shared how at the age of 21 he was badly burnt when the RFA Sir Galahad was destroyed in the Bluff Cove air attack in 1982. Staff were captivated by Simon’s journey towards recovery and the barriers he has had to overcome over a prolonged period of time.
Simon was keen to remind those listening about the importance of inclusivity and the challenges individuals face when overcoming or adapting to a disability.
“The people with differences are only people with differences. Just talk to people, they’re ordinary human beings who have been through something extraordinary. If they are born with a disability, they largely will be used to people asking or talking to them. If they don’t want to answer, they’ll say.
“Sometimes just going and talking to people it breaks the ice and it makes such a difference so I would say just talk to people and do it in a very respectful way as you would wish to be spoken to yourself.”
DE&S manages a vast range of complex projects and programmes to buy, support and supply vital equipment and services that the UK Armed Forces need to operate effectively. They employ over 11,500 talented civil servants, military personnel and private contractors across more than 150 locations around the world.
Dan Bishop, Director Ships Acquisition and Disabilities Champion for DE&S, said:
“We were really honoured to have Simon to speak to our staff. His lived experience and journey towards recovery provide a great deal of inspiration for anyone facing difficulties, as well as reminding us all that everyone matters and we can all play a part in removing barriers and assisting our colleagues, friends and loved ones to reach their full potential.”
Simon’s story has been well publicised and the subject of five major BBC television documentaries, while his autobiography, Walking Tall, was number one in the best-sellers list. Simon was awarded the CBE for his charitable work in the 2016 New Year’s Honours.