David Atkin, RAF Regiment veteran supported by The Poppy Factory

David is determined to inspire others

Dan Hodges Case Studies, Getting you back to work

When his military career was cut short by a devastating back injury, RAF Regiment veteran David Atkin had no idea what the future would hold. Determined to walk and to work again, he found support from The Poppy Factory in the early days of our employment service. We helped David pursue a new path as a Youth Mentor, setting a course for a successful career helping young people interested in joining the Armed Forces.


Injury in Afghanistan

David Atkin being evacuated after being injured in AfghanistanDavid said: “I joined the RAF Regiment in 2008, when I’d just turned 19. It was something I’d always wanted to do. I was a section machine gunner.

“About six weeks into a tour of Afghanistan in 2010, we were part of a long vehicle patrol near Kandahar and our vehicle got stuck. We were the last to go through a really boggy section, which was getting worse with every vehicle that went over. Our vehicle was flung over and a piece of metal I’d been standing on crushed my spine.

“I couldn’t feel my legs. I had a compound vertebrae fracture. I was recovered by helicopter and taken for emergency surgery. It seemed like I might be paralysed from the waist down.

“Back in the UK, I was sent to Selly Oak Hospital where I had to learn to walk again. Then I was transferred to Headley Court to be treated for complex trauma. My back continued to deteriorate. I’ve had six surgeries and things are still getting worse, unfortunately.

Finding new inspiration

RAF Regiment veteran David Atkin forged a new path as a youth mentor, after support from The Poppy Factory“When I was medically discharged in 2011, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. Then Help for Heroes put me on to The Poppy Factory. They found an opportunity working as a youth mentor at West Kent YMCA. I really enjoyed it – I stayed for nearly three years and it set me up for what I’m doing today.

“After that I became an instructor with Challenger Troop, leading military-style boot camp sessions for disengaged youths and delivering youth engagement activities. Working with students with behavioural challenges is something that would never have crossed my mind, and I’m thankful to The Poppy Factory for setting me on that road. A lot of the students I worked with weren’t used to outdoor activities, and it was good to see them engaging with the programme.

“In 2017 I joined the Military Preparation College for Training (MPCT), which helps teenagers develop their fitness, qualifications and skills to prepare for employment, including in the Armed Forces.  I joined as a Lead Instructor and progressed to Centre Manager and now Deputy Regional Operations Manager for London.

“My job is very rewarding. Our students join us because they want to go into the military – they really want to be here.”


More you might like