Invictus Games: ‘I lost dream of being soldier but found new one’ tells wounded warrior from East Village
17:15 20 August 2014
Becoming a soldier was Maurillia Simpson’s dream from a tender age, but one that would be cut short through injury.
Not one sustained on the frontline as it turned out, though the Trinidad and Tobago native saw her share of the action during three tours of Iraq as a driver and communications specialist for the Royal Logistics Corps. At one point narrowly escaping death in a mortar explosion which claimed the life of a colleague.
Instead her “world ended” when she was hit by a car in June 2010 while stationed in Germany. The accident shattered her left femur, leaving her walking with a cane and suffering from painful nervous spasms.
No longer able to serve in the British Army, she was medically discharged in November last year.
“At the time I did ask myself why? I did blame myself,” she tells Parklife when we meet at the Copper Box Arena, a stone’s throw from her home in the East Village neighbourhood of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
“I got blown up many a time in Iraq while I was on tour but I returned safe. I lost a friend in one of the contacts [with enemy fighters] but I remained alive, so I thought my dream was still active.
“Then for it to be taken away by being a victim of a road traffic accident – it was very hard.
“When the accident happened I really thought I was dead and my time on earth had ended, because I didn’t see myself as being anything else but a soldier, because that’s all I ever wanted to do.”
Sport became a major part of the 39-year-old’s rehabilitation both at Headley Court and then Tedworth House recovery centres, the latter run by charity Help for Heroes focuses on introducing adaptive sports to injured, wounded and sick service personnel.
It’s there Maurillia, who had been a keen sports player – regularly taking part in everything from basketball to hockey games during her seven years in the army – rediscovered some purpose in life through sport.
Such was her skill she was drafted as a reserve player for Team GB’s Paralympic sitting volleyball team for London 2012.
“For me, that was an achievement in itself,” she tells me, despite remaining on the sidelines during the Games. “To know that my life didn’t end in June 2010 – it was just the beginning.
The former Lance Corporal has since gone on to compete for Great Britain in last year’s USA Warrior Games and will now get the chance to play in front of a home crowd at the Olympic Park in September’s inaugural Invictus Games.
There the CTTV operative for the Olympic Park will compete in three events: sitting discus, sitting shotput and sitting javelin.
“To have something to turn to because I’ve lost my dream of being a soldier and to be able to turn to sport as my main focus is really astonishing,” she explains.
“It is the beginning of a new dream and something I never thought would happen. It’s a new life for me now and that is the way I see it.”
As if her personal journey didn’t serve to inspire enough, Maurillia offers some final words of encouragement to those who have suffered injury or might be going through a difficult period in their lives.
“It never ends there. If you are breathing and have that breath of life in you there is a purpose, there’s always something you can do.”
Visit invictusgames.org to find out more and to book tickets for the games, which run September 10 to 14. Click here to find out more and book tickets for the games, which run September 10 to 14.
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