Suffolk soldier cheated death in blast
SUFFOLK soldier Lloyd Howlett is today lucky to be alive after narrowly escaping death in an explosion in Afghanistan.He was left with shrapnel embedded in his face, jaw, arm and shoulder after a landmine was triggered as he and a colleague worked to recover a tank which had earlier run over another bomb.
SUFFOLK soldier Lloyd Howlett is today lucky to be alive after narrowly escaping death in an explosion in Afghanistan.
He was left with shrapnel embedded in his face, jaw, arm and shoulder after a landmine was triggered as he and a colleague worked to recover a tank which had earlier run over another bomb.
Today, after making a full recovery, will be one of celebration for the army officer - as he and his wife Shiralee celebrate their love for each other by renewing their marriage vows in a special ceremony at St Augustine's Church, Ipswich.
Dozens of family and friends will join them for the special occasion with the service to be conducted by Canon Lionel Simpkins, who married them 12 years ago.
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Shiralee, 33, known by everyone as Sam, from Ipswich, works in Wilkinsons store in the town centre and has a new wedding dress for the special occasion. The couple have two children, Courtney, 13, and Lewis, nine.
The couple live in married quarters at Rock Barracks at Woodbridge, where Corporal Howlett, 35, serving with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, is attached to the 23 Engineers Regiment.
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He was in Afghanistan when a Warrior tank hit a landmine and was part of the recovery unit, putting in place a winch to recover the armoured vehicle when another rolled over a second mine, causing an explosion just five to eight metres away from him and friend and colleague Cpl Pete Ollander.
“We were peppered with hundreds of small stones and caught shrapnel in the face, legs and body,” said Cpl Howlett, originally from South Africa.
“I got hit in the cheek and straight through my cheek into my mouth. The medics were brilliant and we were out of there on a Chinook in 20 minutes.
“They removed most of the shrapnel from my face and I had five stitches but they missed a piece which was still stuck in my jaw.
“When I went back they said they had seen it on the x-ray but thought it was a wisdom tooth, but I had my wisdom teeth out five years ago!”
Cpl Howlett, who has served three times in Afghanistan and may go out again, said because the REME work with so many units he has many friends serving out there and thinks about them every day. Next week he is due to go to the funeral of a friend, one of the British soldiers killed this month.
“Because of what has happened over the past year we really felt we wanted to renew our wedding vows and this would be a great time to do it, the day before our anniversary,” he said.
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FASTFACTS: Afghanistan conflict
An American-led coalition invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 following the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers because it was said al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was hiding in the country.
NATO forces have been there ever since fighting the terrorists - the Taliban and al-Qaeda militants.
So far 188 British service personnel have died in since 2001 - 19 of them this month - more than in the war in Iraq.
Experts calculate the British forces have fired more than four million bullets, and the war has so far cost taxpayers �5.6 billion.
Following the surge in deaths, in Britain there has been a huge row over whether its troops have enough equipment, particularly helicopters, but politicians say they do.
Some 70,000 foreign troops are currently based in Afghanistan and US President Barack Obama is sending 21,000 more American soldiers this summer and considering adding another 10,000 later.