A teenage soldier who was turned into a human fireball in a petrol bomb attack in Iraq was guest of honour at the remembrance service at Abbey Gate College on November 11.
Karl Hinett, who has since battled back to fitness to complete 126 marathons, gave a short recollection of his story and the realities of war, following which he spent time with pupils across a number of year groups in history and PSHE lessons talking in more depth about his experiences.
The moving service included two pieces of music from the college’s concert band, a solo performance of Pie Jesu from sixth form student Ruby Hart and Last Post and Reveille were played by Year 10 pupil Max Conyers.
A poppy wreath was placed at the war memorial in Saighton village.
Private Karl Hinett, from Dudley, West Midlands, was only 18 when he almost died during an operation in Iraq in 2005. He was inside a Warrior tank which was attacked by rioters during a raid on a jail in Basra to free two undercover soldiers. An image of him rolling down the front of the tank covered in flames as he escaped from the tank made headlines around the world.
While the other four soldiers in the tank escaped serious injury, Private Hinett received 37 per cent burns. He underwent five years of gruelling skin grafts and operations at Selly Oak Hospital - now replaced by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. After being discharged from hospital he set himself the challenge of running an astonishing 200 marathons by the time he turns 30. He kicked off with the London Marathon in 2007, and after running 126 marathons in seven years, including events in Helsinki, Miami and Tokyo, he looks to be right on for his target.
Karl, 27, has already covered more than 6,650 miles across six continents, including marathons at both the North and South Pole. He has already raised over £50,000 for the burns unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the process. He has also had attempted to climb Mount Everest with other wounded servicemen, training with Prince Harry who has become a true ambassador for wounded servicemen and women - though the mission had to be called off due to avalanche risks.
He said: “It’s really important that we mark the beginning of the First World War and take time to remember the millions of lives sacrificed during world conflicts. For many young people, it’s difficult to comprehend what war is like. Schools teach it in history lessons but for most of the school kids that I go in and talk to, the First and Second World Wars are several generations ago and sometimes hard to connect with.
“The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts mean something to them – they’ve happened in their lifetimes and many of them know of someone who has served out in Iraq. But I also want to share a story of hope and triumph. I absolutely loved my job in the army and was devastated to have to leave.
“However, I feel incredibly lucky that I made it out of Iraq alive. My injuries have spurred me on to do something with my life that will make a difference. If I can inspire the kids that I talk to really follow their passion and not fear what others think of them, then I’m happy. I used to be really self-conscious about my scarring, but then I found a purpose and, although I hate it, I have a talent for running. Although I do sometimes wonder why I do it, running for The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, without whom I would not be here, spurs me on. I owe them my life and through my marathons, I hope I’m helping other people who need their incredible care and skill to get their lives back on track too.”