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28 September 2012, 06:00
An Army officer from Newbury who returned to Afghanistan despite almost dying on his last operational tour has been recognised for his bravery in more than 50 high-intensity battles.
Three years ago Captain Nick Garland's patrol base was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades, burning slices of shrapnel into his neck, down his windpipe, and through his thyroid, artery and lung.
He lost six-and-a-half pints of blood and had to be defibrillated on a helicopter before slipping into a month-long coma.
The 29-year-old, of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards needed multiple operations to repair his collapsed artery and feed blood to his limbs, with months of rehabilitation to restore his mobility.
Last year he deployed with his Regiment on Operation Herrick 15 as part of an elite reconnaissance troop at the front of operations in Afghanistan.
He was mentioned in dispatches after finding himself back in the firing line as a troop leader of the Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) in Helmand.
He said: "I wanted to go back, so I wasn't nervous but I was a little apprehensive about returning. I don't have any negative feelings about what happened as I don't really remember the injury. It was just a bang and lights out for me, but I wanted to get over that first contact that I knew would occur."
During one of the battles of the six-month tour, Cpt Garland and his troops were providing a cordon on October 31 when they came under heavy fire from four positions.
The insurgents, some just 100 metres away, fired at the soldiers with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. Cpt Garland crossed 300 metres of open ground under fire to direct his lead sections into a defensive position to enable the rest of the soldiers to extract from the attack.
He said: "It's not so much something that you do, but something that you have to do in order to make space for yourself and others around you.
"If you are running through enemy fire you are doing it for a reason - you are either leaving, or making space for somebody else to have an effect on the enemy.''
Cpt Garland's citation states: `"Garland's unwavering bravery and cool-thinking has inspired his soldiers in the most hostile of environments. Under contact, he has consistently sought to take the fight to the enemy."