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Stephan Van Neikerk

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Stephan Van Neikerk spent several years serving in the British Army. During a tour of duty in Afghanistan, he was left with life changing injuries but has incredibly lived to tell ...

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What is your background?

I was born in South Africa in 1984 and sort of spent half my life growing up on a farm, half of it in the city. My parents divorced when I was about eight years old, which then ended up with me moving to England when I was 15 with my mom and my stepdad. I finished my schooling, went to college, and then decided to join the military because it just seemed like it fitted with everything that I wanted to achieve. I then spent a few years in the military before then becoming injured, and then had quite a bit of time going through rehabilitation, and then following that, I started a family. Ended up having four kids, started doing some motivational speaking, working with charities, and also getting involved with a couple of little expeditions in the world of cycling and yeah.

Did you have any role models growing up?

I a few role models, like any child does really kind of look at superheroes, which probably maybe one of the reasons why I ended up joining the military in some ways. But I think the role models that really stood out for me, there were two. One was my brother because of just the way that he was there, the support and the caring nature that you had. And also the fact that he was extremely hardworking, like my parents as well. Equally, they were good role models too. And then when I moved to the uk, my friend Tom was probably one that really stood out because again, I was like the foreign kid and it didn't take me long to make friends, but Tom was the first one that took the chance to knock on my door and asked if I wanted to go down to the park and start hanging around and going cycling or whatever. But he kind of taught me that actually if you want to achieve something, just through hard work, nothing's ever too big, just keep going, plugging away. He wanted to join the military. He wasn't the tallest of people, so the odds was stacked against him, but he just persevered and he got in. And that was a very good example for me, which actually played a big part in the rest of my life going forward.

What support was around you growing up?

So I was very fortunate to, both my parents were very loving and caring, so I always had them to rely on, even though they had their own differences between them. But my brother was probably the biggest rock in my life because we went through everything together and I was a bit adventurous, let's say. I always kind of had to learn things the hard way, and he was far more sensible than me. So he was always there to help me pick up the pieces or level of support. Whenever I messed something up or made a mistake, I could go to him and he'd be there to give me that support that I needed. And then when I came to the UK being a bit like a fish out of water, my first friend Tom was again, he kind of fulfilled that role that my brother did and became my best friend, but he was also there as somebody I could just really get on with and talk to and have, there's that support.

Where did you grow up?

Did you always want to be in the army?