A true story…
Laura’s hand covered her mouth, her eyes filled with panic, “It’s true. It’s him.”
Pete Dunning was on her TV screen being scooped up by an army helicopter in Afghanistan. He was in critical condition, near death. Machine guns fired salvos as the cameras aboard captured a video of his rescue.
The soldier and his buddies were in a vehicle that rolled across a buried bomb. The explosion propelled the six-ton Viking 20 feet into the air. The driver died on impact and two others were in serious condition, along with Pete.
The Medics used all their knowledge to save Pete, only they couldn’t save his legs. He also had burns and damage to his spine. The wounded warrior would spend the next five months in Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham.
Laura’s heart ached for her friend. They had worked together at a hotel in Wirral, Merseyside when she was sixteen.
“We had a spark and fancied each other” she related, “but we were so young that nothing came of it. I was with someone else, so the timing wasn’t right. Also Pete was a bit of a lady’s man, I wouldn’t have touched him with a barge pole.”
Laura wanted to visit Pete but held back. “I didn’t want him to think I was only getting in touch because I felt sorry for him,” she explained. “Over the following weeks I just kept up to date on how he was doing by speaking to mutual friends.
“Pete is a very positive person,” Laura continued, “but like anyone in that situation he had his dark days. I would have hated to go to there and have him not really want to see me, but feel he had to paint a smile on his face.”
Still, she could not forget the documentary about “Doctors and Nurses in War Zones.” Could not erase the image of Pete’s surgery, it was forever seared into her memory. Just as she would never forget a statement she had made to her parents.
After she and Pete lost contact, Laura’s parents would occasionally run into him at the local pub. One day they told her that Pete had joined the Marines. “Why on earth did he do that? Laura remarked casually. “He’s going to go and get himself blown up.”
When Laura heard of Pete’s injury she prayed he wouldn’t be bound to a wheelchair. “He was so active; I knew it would kill him.”
And then she watched the documentary, witnessed his surgery.
“It wasn’t until after I watched the program I felt I was able to contact Pete,” Laura confessed. “I was staggered by what he’d gone through and survived. I found him on Facebook and we began e-mailing each other — just before the first anniversary of his amputation.”
After the texting began they agreed to meet at a local pub. Laura wasn’t nervous about Pete’s legs, she had worked with an amputee and knew what to expect. What she didn’t expect was the new Pete.
“I got in touch out of friendship, but it soon became clear it was going to be all or nothing with us. I was nervous before we actually met up in case he’d changed … and he had for the better.”
The cocky Pete was gone and someone nicer had taken his place. Someone thoughtful and sincere, he had grown up.
“The spark between us was instant and we knew it was the start of something big.”
They were on holiday at the Winter Paralympics in Vancouver when Pete proposed.
“When he got down on one knee my first thought was, ‘Oh God, he’s going to get stuck.’ But he managed and I was over the moon. I think he just knew he’d let me go once and he was never going to let me go again.”
They married in 2011 and have a precious little girl named Ava.
May Your Glass Always Be Half Full
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