Veteran who lost both legs in Afghanistan to take first steps on new Parade Ground

Fifteen years after losing both legs to a Taliban bomb in Afghanistan Damien Thomlinson will make history as one of the first people to walk on the new Parade ground at the Australian War Memorial on Anzac Day 2024.

Damien was a member of the 2nd Commando Unit which drove over an Improvised Explosive Device in April 2009. His medical team were forced to amputate his legs to save his life.

Damien saw this as a new challenge to be overcome.

He threw himself into rehabilitation and taught himself how to walk again with the assistance of prosthetic legs. He walked the Kokoda track to remember a fellow veteran killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, represented Australia in the Invictus games and participated in the TARGA Tasmania classic to raise awareness for Legacy and the newly formed Commando Welfare Trust. In 2013 he released his autobiography Without Warning which continues to sell across Australia, the US and the UK and appeared in the 2016 Hollywood blockbuster Hacksaw Ridge with Sam Worthington.

Damien has partnered with Soldier On, the Commando Welfare Trust and DefenceCare to raise funds for injured soldiers and their families. He has worked to inspire and educate as a motivational speaker and help fellow veterans and the wider community.

Recently Damien partnered with Sydney based photographer Richard Wiesel to tell the stories of veterans and their families, focusing on the sacrifices they make for their country. To date they completed 75 works of video and photography and will be exhibiting them in Melbourne and Sydney in the coming months.

Now Damien’s inspiring story will see him give the first address at the new Parade Ground at the Australian War Memorial.

“I am honoured to be given the opportunity to make this historic address,” Damien Thomlinson said. “I hope my story can inspire not only other veterans but also prove to the Anzac spirit is alive and well.”

The Parade Ground is the first part of the Memorial to be completed as part of the Development project which will see an expansion on all modern conflicts, including Afghanistan.

Matt Anderson, Director of the Australia War Memorial, said “Having the parade ground commissioned by veterans like Damien is a fitting beginning to the opening of our new spaces. The purpose of this project is for veterans and their families to see their stories told here, at the National Memorial.”

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