It was during one of the many rocket attacks in Iraq that an army major's life would change forever. But despite the terrible injuries Phil Packer sustained that day, he tells Scott Mullins that he still hopes to inspire others.

AS THE deadly explosive screamed over the walls of the British Army's base in Basra on February 19, Major Phil Packer could not possibly have realised that his life was about to change forever.

He was working in the Royal Military Police and had been in Iraq for just over three months.

"I have been involved with the armed forces since I was 21 but you just try to put the risks to the back of your mind.

"It is about protecting people around you and making sure they are safe," the 35-year-old former Petts Wood resident explained.

But on that fateful day, no-one was there to protect Major Packer and he was left wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life.

"When the rocket came down I suffered a bruised heart, damaged lungs and cracked ribs. My lower back was also broken. It left me paralysed from the waist down," he said.

"I remember there were dark times after doctors first told me and I didn't feel too good about it all. But after the first night I figured I couldn't keep thinking like that."

The former pupil at Crofton Infants School, Orpington, and Eltham College said: "I ended up next to a chap in hospital who was paralysed from the neck down.

"It made me realise that I was very lucky. I was lucky to be alive, lucky to have my health and lucky to have my family.

"You can't wake up every morning and wish things were different. It would put you in a very dark place. It would drag you down."

The rugby fan added: "I can do so much more than a lot of people and hope my story can inspire others."

Out of the heartbreak the former member of the 7th Petts Wood Cub Scouts has decided to help others in a similar situation to his own.

Major Packer has launched his Phil's Million fundraising drive to raise money in aid of Help for Heroes, a charity supporting wounded servicemen and women.

The unmarried serviceman, now living in Westminster, said: "I want to raise a million pounds by April next year. It sounds like a lot of money and it is, but I will not stop until I get there."

Major Packer, who returns to his role in the military police later this year, will compete in the London Marathon next year and donations can be made by visiting his website at

Help for Heroes was founded in October with the main aim of helping members of the armed services wounded in action.

It raised £6million in eight months and paid for a swimming pool and gym complex at the service rehabilitation centre at Headley Court in Epsom, Surrey.

The charity is now planning to improve Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, often the first port of call for injured servicemen and women.

Major Packer said: "I became aware of the charity when I was in Iraq and we all wore wristbands to support it.

"I have already managed to raise £31,000 for the cause and I hope I can raise a lot more."