Wounded Norfolk heroes find new career in the air
- Credit: supplied by Joe Zipfel/Marc Goddard
Two wounded service personnel from Norfolk are reaching for the skies, thanks to a charity which helps those injured in action train to become pilots.
Royal Marines Joe Zipfel and Marc Goddard are both from Thetford. Both attended the town’s Rosemary Musker High School, but they did not meet until 2004, when 16-year-old Mr Goddard joined the corps and Mr Zipfel, then 19, became his mentor.
Both ended up commando-trained green berets who were ready for anything in the specialist Armoured Support Group.
Between 2003 and 2008 Mr Zipfel was deployed once to Iraq and three times to Afghanistan .
On the third deployment, he suffered complex lower limb fractures, nerve damage to his legs and a fractured spine after his vehicle was destroyed by a roadside bomb.
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“I don’t remember much about the incident but the rehab was a long and painful process,” he said. “Wonderful people and brilliant treatment but they couldn’t repair all the damage and I was medically discharged in December 2012. It wasn’t a great Christmas, to be honest.”
Mr Goddard’s service career came to a halt in Afghanistan the same year, when he suffered life-changing leg injuries and 25pc burns in a mine blast.
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Medically discharged, both returned home and settled in the same block of flats in Norwich. They tried to adjust to civilian life but both young veterans gradually came to the conclusion that there was a hole in their lives.
That all changed for Mr Goddard when he joined the Wings for Warriors Programme.
The UK-registered charity gives wounded, injured or sick servicemen and women the opportunity to retrain as commercial air pilots.
“Having completed my training I want to send my sincere gratitude to all our supporters for helping me re-train for a career in flying, about which I am passionate,” he said.
“The funding so generously provided has not only benefited me in starting a new life after the Royal Marines but also my family, who can now look forward to a secure future, full of hope.”
Mr Zipfel said: “Marc and I lived in the same apartment block in Norwich and we both tried to get on with life in Civvy Street.
“It was Marc who first realised that civilian life wasn’t going to work and he applied successfully to join the W4W training programme. Then I suppose you could say things went full circle and it was Marc who persuaded me to apply to the charity.
“Last year, I had a series of interviews with W4W but I didn’t really dare hope I would be accepted onto the programme when me and the other three lads were invited to a day’s testing and interviews with TUI.
“I have no idea how the TUI people managed to cram so much testing into a day but at the end of the afternoon, we were all told we had passed and were offered contracts of employment - provided we passed our exams.
“It was then I started to believe I was out of the tunnel and a new life was waiting.”
Both have almost finished their training, after which they will fly to and from airports around the UK - possibly including Norwich.
Charlie Marshall, general manager of Wings for Warriors, said: This is a great story about the life changing opportunity offered by W4W. No-one else does this work and we now have five years experience and 12 successful graduates. We have managed to raise funds to train 11 pilots so far with the help of support of more than 50 grant making trusts, City Livery companies and the Armed Forces Covenant .
“With TUI as a partner and vital funding from our supporters - it costs nearly £70,000 to train a Commercial Pilot - we hope to help many more disabled veterans into commercial aviation for many years to come.”
For more information on the charity’s work, go to www.wings4warriors.org.uk.