Injured veterans get rehab from Caerwent Roman dig

South Wales Argus: Captain Paul Johnston-Armstrong who broke his back in service works on part of the dig Captain Paul Johnston-Armstrong who broke his back in service works on part of the dig

INJURED veterans from across the UK have been taking part in an award-winning rehabilitation project based in Gwent.

Soldiers and veterans injured on operations in Afghanistan are taking part in the groundbreaking project in Caerwent which uses archaeology to help their recovery.

The military personnel, supported by Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) archaeologists, the Defence Archaeology Group and University of Leicester (UofL) have created an innovative programme to excavate a substantial Romano-British stone building on Caerwent Training Area.

Under the supervision of experienced archaeologists, the soldiers excavate material, including Roman building remains, and learn a series of excavation, land survey, drawing and mapping techniques.

Captain Paul Johnstone-Armstrong, 29, a member of the Royal Military Police, from Newport, was injured in 2009 and 2010 in Kabul.

He suffered a broken back, nerve damage and non-physical injuries.

He said: "I've been here two weeks now, and it's really, really good. I'm really enjoying being outside and doing something different.

"We've got a few days left and then we'll be heading to a similar project in Salisbury.

"I'm still serving, but I've been off full-time work for the last 10 months while undergoing intensive rehabilitation to get me back to work.

"That's why this project is so great, because it's a physical and a mental workout.

"On top of that I'm with soldiers again, and the camaraderie is something I've really missed. It's nice because there's always something going on - we have lectures in the evenings, about things like chemical warfare in Roman times, or we'll go down to the village for a pint or two.

"Having to use my brain again and doing something different, it's a good feeling."

Sgt Diarmaid Walshe, a qualified archaeologist, said: "The key to the success of the project is that the soldiers undertake many different activities, from digging to surveying, photography and finds processing.

"The programme gives them something useful to do which can help rebuild their self-esteem, provide them with a sense of purpose and give them something positive to strive for."

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