Brundall soldier walks 456 miles home - a mile for every British life lost in Afghanistan
- Credit: SIMON FINLAY
It was a painful journey home for soldier Zak Thorpe, walking 456 miles across the UK.
His feet felt the strain of the 11-and-a-half day trek, but it was his heart which truly ached for Britain's soldiers, killed in Afghanistan.
The Staff Sergeant, 41, from the 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery lost friends and saw others severely injured during his 19 year army career.
It was these horrors of war which inspired the Brundall dad to walk the 456 miles – one for every British life lost in the conflict – home for Christmas as a tribute to his fallen colleagues.
In aid of Walking With The Wounded's Christmas appeal, the journey, which ended on Saturday, allowed him time to commemorate the ultimate sacrifice his friends made for their country.
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'I have done numerous operations and I have always come home unscarred, so this walk was my way of giving something back,' Staff Sgt Thorpe said, with tears in his eyes.
'Every day we read out names relating to the miles we walked the day before. One mile for every life lost. 'It just seemed like the most respectful thing to do.'
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The trek the team of six undertook went from their base in Larkhill, Wiltshire, back to the Ram pub in Brundall where Staff Sgt Thorpe's fiancé Debbie Snowling, 37, greeted him with veterans from the Royal Artillery Association.
She said her partner needed to do the walk after suffering with post traumatic stress-like symptoms on his return from the war-torn country.
While the walk was physically difficult – walking on average 12 to 15 hours a day – it was the mental challenges which Staff Sgt Thorpe found the hardest.
But, he said, it was a journey which he hopes will help deal with the painful memories he holds.
'I needed to get something off my chest,' Staff Sgt Thorpe explained. 'Walking miles and miles on my own every day gave me a chance to come to terms with things, to talk to your team, to heal.'
He toured Afghanistan on five separate occasions, witnessing harrowing sights through his work piloting remotely controlled planes.
Through the £7,000 raised for the charity, Staff Sgt Thorpe hopes he can help other soldiers whose lives have been turned upside down by war.
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