FORMER soldier David Rankin remembers very little about the moment his life changed.

The Liverpudlian was just 18 when he flew out to serve with the British Army in Iraq in 2008, but only a few weeks later he suffered horrific injuries when he was hit by an armoured 4x4 vehicle while seeking shelter from a mortar attack.

“On the way there I was so excited and despite the constant bombardments when you see somewhere like Basra you just think ‘wow’- it was a completely different life for someone who had grown up in Liverpool,” said David, 30, who was on guard when an attack on his base started.

“The ground was shaking and I felt like my life was in danger, so I ran for cover and the next thing I can remember is waking up two weeks later in Birmingham.

“I had multiple bleeds on the brain, a fractured skull, loads of breaks and fractures and I had to have a tracheotomy for three years.”

After leaving the Army, David’s mental health began to suffer and he admits he began to make some poor decisions.

“It was a long and difficult road back to recovery.,” he said.

“My head went to pieces and my life began to go downhill.

“I got into a bad drug addiction and got roped into all kinds and ended up in prison.”

While inside jail, David decided he was determined to make more positive life choices and when he set his sights on a new career in farming, he turned to The Poppy Factory for help turning his dream into a reality.

Founded in 1922, The Poppy Factory’s Getting You Back To Work service helps hundreds of unemployed veterans every year find the right jobs and help them to thrive in the civilian workplace.

“Although I’m from the city, I started to dream about working with beef herds,” laughed David, who had the opportunity to work with animals while in prison.

“While I was trying to change my life around I was referred to Carole-Anne from The Poppy Factory. We met and I told her how important it was for me to be able to do farm work.

“Carole-Anne set up an interview for me at a City Farm and although it went well, I didn’t get the job. We decided to take a chance. I went to Mrs Dowson’s Farm in Clayton-le-Dale outside Blackburn and asked if they would help me build up some experience as a volunteer.”

“They gave me the chance and after the first week they took me on the books for a few hours.

“I would drive an hour and a half from Liverpool every day through the dark, cold winter for a 6am milking start. I never missed a shift.”

David’s persistence has now paid off and after being taken on full time he rents a cottage close to the farm where he helps to manage a herd of over 200 dairy cows and their calves while his training continues.

“In the city I could have gone back to my old ways, but I resisted because I was focused on a better goal,” he added.

“I love the work I’m doing now. I’m so happy I’ve been able to realise my ambition, and to have had the support of The Poppy Factory in getting there.”