A hero soldier who lost a leg in Afghanistan has transformed himself – into a champion BODY BUILDER.
Hero soldier Mark Smith, 30, was lucky to survive after being shot twice and had to have his entire right leg amputated after the bullet severed his femoral artery.
But the former Grenadier Guard – who was fitted with a metal prosthetic limb – wanted to be a role model to his sons and took up weight lifting.
The dad-of-two hit the weights and was soon outstripping able-bodied gym goers, pumping 220kg through a leg press – despite one of his legs being prosthetic.
He entered his first ever tournament last year where he scooped first prize and was headhunted to perform against the world’s elite body builders in Texas next month.
The 6ft 2ins soldier – who served in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan and Trooped the Colour four times during a decade of military service – said the sport saved him.
Brave Mark, from Milton Keynes, said: “Body building has dragged me out of a dark place – I was lost after leaving the Army.
“But I didn’t want my two sons to go to school and have to say their dad used to be a soldier, living in the past.
“I wanted to do something here and now that they can be proud of.
“I want to be a role model for them so they see me working hard and hopefully that attitude will rub off on them as they get older.
“It was difficult adapting training routines for one leg, learning a way of squatting and using the leg press but I had a lot of help from the guys at the gym.
“I now train five to six days a week for two to three hours a time and love the challenge of pushing my body as far as I can.”
Married Mark joined the Guards straight from school and was involved in one of the toughest periods of the Afghanistan conflict in 2009.
His company was devastated by the loss of three men who were shot by a rogue Afghan policeman and then he lost another comrade to an IED.
Mark, then a Lance Sergeant, was then injured in 2011 during a live-firing exercise in Canada while training for his second tour to Afghanistan.
He was hit in the right leg, with the bullet severing his femoral artery, and in his right shoulder, and had his leg amputated three days later.
Mark has endured 25 operations over the last three years, with the support of Natalie, 30, a teaching assistant, and sons Ellis, four, and Ethan, two,
He took up bodybuilding a year ago after reading about the Pure Elite tournament for disabled people at Margate Winter Gardens in November.
The determined ex-squaddie rebuilt his body with punishing gym sessions and strict diets.
He lost three stones in six months to weigh just under 13 stones, and reduced his body fat from 17 to eight per cent.
Mark said: “Being in the Grenadiers was all I ever wanted to do and my wife was saying I was miserable and needing an adrenaline fix.
“I’ve always been keen on fitness and just read about body building and this disabled competition and entered without really thinking about it.
“Next thing I’m standing back stage is in these trunks feeling quite exposed and wondering what on earth I was doing.
“But my name was called out first and I got a standing ovation. It was incredible. My wife said it was the happiest I’ve looked since the injury.”
Talent scouts have invited Mark to the National Physique Committee Phil Heath Classic – a prestigious international disabled body building competition – in Houston, Texas next month.
“In the army I always wanted to lead by example and push the boundaries to see how far I could go and now I am trying to boost disabled body building in the UK,” he said.
“I was surprised and disappointed that there weren’t more people doing it.
“There are thousands and thousands of disabled people and thousands of veterans who could compete and get something from it.
“It can help with self esteem and confidence, there is massive potential.
“I used to look back and wonder what I was missing from Army life but now I have a purpose and can look forward.”
His regiment’s Colonel’s Fund has helped with air fares and accommodation for the trip.
Mark was also helped along the way by Blesma, a charity which supports servicemen who have have lost limbs in service.
Chief executive Barry Le Grys said: “Mark has done amazingly well and it demonstrates what can be achieved.
“But coming to terms with a life-changing injury is very difficult so veterans need help and support to get going again.”