Simon Brown had no idea what to think when he met little Tempy. He understood that his disfigured face isn’t exactly pretty to look at, and often times children would have unpredictable reactions to him. Simon knew that this time was different as soon as he heard Tempy speak. The impact the little girl would have on him was more than she could even understand.
Simon was previously in the British Armed Forces, and served as a Royal Engineer for thirteen years. In December of 2006, after spending seven months in Iraq, a transport carrying six of his comrades broke down and they were attacked. Simon rushed to their aid and was able to save them. Unfortunately, as Simon was leaving, he was almost killed.
Simon had been shot by a sniper. The bullet entered through his left cheek and exited through his right one. The bullet destroyed both of Simon’s cheekbones, severely damaged his right eye and shattered his left one. “Thank God I didn’t pass out. My palate had collapsed and I couldn’t breathe. I put my thumb in my mouth to hold it up and keep my airway open,” he remembers. Suffocating was a real danger for Simon.
Simon was immediately brought to the nearby Basra Palace for an emergency tracheotomy. Soon after, he was airlifted to his base where he was put into a coma and received surgery. The following day he was flown to Britain. In order to rebuild his face, Simon would need more operations, but for now Simon was functionally blind. His life had been flipped upside down and he had no clue how to handle his new life.
Simon spent many, many hours in the Selly Oak Hospital receiving treatment and rehabilitation. Using titanium, doctors were able to reconstruct Simon’s nose and cheekbones. He was able to have his jaw completely remolded and he was fitted for a prosthetic eye. But Simon still needed to learn how to live being blind. Luckily, he wasn’t alone.
Simon was able to get help from Help for Heroes and Blind Veterans UK, which are charities dedicated to assisting veterans return to their normal life. Thanks to their practical, emotional, and financial support, Simon was able to learn how to live on his own and adjust to his new lifestyle. Unfortunately, Simon struggles with maintaining his self-confidence every single day.
It’s been eleven years since his injury and Simon has had 25 surgeries to rebuild his face. Simon’s prosthetic eye and his scars are still visible, though. It’s not always easy, but Simon tries not to let it bother him. It’s especially hard when he’s around kids because he doesn’t want to scare them. But that changed as soon as he met Tempy.
Five-year-old Temperance Pattinson, also known as Tempy, is from Darlington. Tempy was only three when she asked her mother, Emily, why there were people wearing red poppies. Emily told Tempy about the Poppy Appeal, the fundraising effort by the Royal British Legion to help veterans rejoin society. Tempy immediately wanted to help, so she did. And it was amazing!
“It was the concept that someone would put their life at risk to keep her safe when they hadn’t even met her,” Emily explained. Tempy raised £53 for Help for Heroes by swimming a 100m race! The following year Tempy did a mini-triathlon and raised £450. Tempy was then informed by the charity about their new campaign, “Facing It Together.” Tempy would finally be able to meet a veteran!
Help for Heroes arranged a video shoot for Tempy. She would be able to meet an injured veteran and have a conversation with them. Simon, who was one of the first veterans the charity helped, was chosen to speak to Tempy. When Simon was told he would be sitting across from a five-year-old, he had no idea what to expect. As soon as they both sat down and began talking, Simon knew that he was having a very unique experience.
Tempy immediately introduced herself. She was confident and looked Simon right in his eyes. His appearance didn’t faze her one bit. Once Simon felt more comfortable, he introduced himself and explained how he had gotten hurt. “What was the thing you got shot by again?” Tempy asked. The gory details didn’t seem to bother her. Then it was Simon’s turn to ask Tempy a question.
Simon asked Tempy her reasoning for swimming the 100m and racing in the triathlon. “Because even though I didn’t know any soldiers I just thought that they did something for us. I just thought I can give a present back to them by raising them money. I am quite proud of the soldiers,” explained Tempy. Simon was almost brought to tears.
Simon told Tempy that he and all of the other solders were proud of her, as well. “I’m 38-and-a-half and I can’t do a triathlon,” he said. Tempy then told Simon that she was a bit scared of riding her bike in the triathlon. With the help of training wheels, Tempy was able to do it, though! Simon understood that this little girl was far from average.
Simon asked Tempy, “You like to challenge yourself, don’t you?” “Yes, because the soldiers challenge themselves,” replied Tempy. Simon thanked Tempy for all of the challenges she takes on. He also told her that all of the money she raised helps veterans rebuild their lives. “So that’s why people like you are our heroes.” Tempy put on a smile and knew exactly what to say.
Tempy responded by saying, “And people like you are mine.” Before the video ended, the new friends fist-bumped each other. Help for Heroes posted the video on their YouTube channel, but the video didn’t explode until The Sun shared it on their website. It only took two days for the video to receive 25 million views. The public adores Simon and Tempy, and they want to see more of them.
After the video went viral, Tempy, Emily, and Simon appeared on ITV’s “This Morning.” Tempy was asked what she thought when she first met Simon. “That he looked really brave,” she replied. Tempy also said that she would soon be entering into a 5k race. “I believe she’ll continue fundraising for the rest of her life,” said Emily.