Gorleston Royal Anglians soldier Ross Green who was injured by a grenade returns to Afghanistan
A brave soldier who nearly lost his arm when he was severely injured by a rocket-propelled grenade while serving with the Royal Anglians in Afghanistan has retrained as a dog handler and is back fighting the Taliban.
Ross Green, 28, from Gorleston, is putting his life on the line for the second time after suffering a shrapnel injury in 2007.
The former Great Yarmouth College student had a string of gardening and caretaking jobs before he thought about joining the army.
In early 2004, stepdad Phil took him to the Army Information Centre in Magdalen Street, Norwich. He passed his selection tests and spent six weeks training at Catterick to be a general purpose machine gunner.
He embarked on a further six months of training but suffered a setback when he dislocated a knee while on exercise on a mountain.
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It delayed his progress, but Ross proudly took part in his passing out parade in December 2005.
Ross's mum, Carole Henley, said: 'It was a really crisp, cold, bright day. There was a bright blue sky and we stood waiting for him for two hours. I was elated when I saw him, I was so proud. He had gone from being a boy to a man.'
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The former Caister High school pupil was now a proud member of The Vikings – Norfolk's own Royal Anglians – at 21 years old.
Ross was based in Pirbright and was first deployed to Afghanistan in April 2007.
It had been two months of long-distance contact, and she thought about her only son every day not expecting to see him for some time.
However in June there was a knock on the front door of her and Phil's home and she opened the door to see Ross in his army desert gear.
'My knees went to jelly,' said Carole, 53. 'The army had brought him home for his leave and he had asked to be dropped off in Yarmouth first so he could buy a bottle of perfume for sister Charlotte because it was her 14th birthday.'
Ross spent two weeks at home before returning to the frontline.
Before he left, he had said he did not know when he would next be in touch as there was 'a big operation' coming up.
And then 10 days later came the news no parent wants to hear.
Phil who works for Norfolk Constabulary, answered a phone call – it was Ross on the other end of the line. 'He was very matter of fact,' Phil remembered. 'He said he was in hospital with a shrapnel injury. My first thought was that I had to tell his mum. He played it down and said that there was nothing to tell except he was in Camp Bastion – so we knew he was safe.'
Hours later the couple were having dinner when the phone went again. This time it was the army family liaison officer.
Phil explained: 'He called us and said Ross had a serious injury and was being flown back to Selly Oak in Birmingham to the specialist army hospital.
'We were told Ross and six others has come under attack from a rocket propelled grenade. Five soldiers had been injured.'
Ross had suffered shrapnel injuries on his right arm and left knee.
One of the things which brought home the bravery of the lads being treated in the special unit was the camaraderie – and age.
Phil said: 'The average age on a ward is normally 60 but here it seemed like the average age was 24.'
'You hear horrific stories about the Army but in our experience, the hospital care was second to none,' said Carole.
Although his physical injuries were healing he was fighting a mental battle while recuperating back in Gorleston – he would jump whenever he heard an aircraft. He was also struggling with being in familiar surroundings while his fellow troops were still fighting and facing danger in Afghanistan.
It was during this recovery, he received a devastating phone call: three of his close friends had been killed in action.
When he was fit, Ross returned to the Anglians' barracks in Pirbright, facing a crossroads in his career – he was unable to carry the heavy rucksacks and equipment because of the injuries he had suffered.
But in August last year, an opportunity arose for a new position.
Carole explained: 'He called and said he had a chance to train with dogs in America. The dogs search for improvised explosive devices. He said he wanted to do it and I said he should give it a go.'
Ross passed his assessment and flew out to South Carolina to train with the American Army and was teamed up with a dog called Dream for five weeks.
He passed his training which involved veterinary work and trips to Canada and Kenya.
Ross had always loved dogs, and they had always been part of the family: 'It wasn't a surprise he wanted to work with them,' Carole said.
He left for Afghanistan again last month – and before he left, he told Phil and Carole that they were going to be grandparents. Girlfriend Becky is expecting a baby boy.
Ross's experience has affected the whole family, and Carole said: 'We are on a whole new level as parents. We have to deal with it and everyone deals with it differently. It has not been an easy ride. There's not many days I don't have tears. I couldn't see Wootton Bassett on the television without crying. We are so proud of Ross. He is fantastic and you couldn't wish for a better son.'
Phil added: 'Our situation is reflected all around the country, there are a lot of people like us. We are pleased Ross can go back to the job he loves.'
Ross's recovery was supported buy the charity Back to Battle