International stars and army heroes unite as rugby and charities join forces

THE GLENGOYNE Auld Enemy Dinner will raise money for the Help for Heroes charity as well as The Bill McLaren Foundation.

Two soldiers who have been supported by Help for Heroes launched the event in Edinburgh yesterday with former Scotland internationalists Stuart Reid, Gregor Townsend and Finlay Calder.

Pte Scott Meenagh of 2 Para grew up a rugby fanatic, playing and coaching rugby union and league in and around Cumbernauld. He even studied the game at Cumbernauld College and attained his coaching licences before joining the Parachute Regiment.

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“Rugby has been my sport all my life,” he said. “I wanted to return to rugby once I’d got through the training for the Paras, and passed out, but my battalion was already booked to go to Afghanistan in late 2010.

“So I was straight into heavy training and then, on the 25 January this year, I stepped on an improvised explosive device in Helmand Province, lost both my legs above the knees and suffered internal injuries.

“I was lucky, though. My friend, Martin Bell, saved my life but lost his. He has won the George Medal for his bravery and it is the least he deserves.

“So I’m very lucky to be here. I feel I’ve been given a second chance. Now I’m focused on helping people and getting back into the rugby environment, specifically coaching young kids and introducing young people to rugby union and league, and also giving something back to charities like Help for Heroes that have helped me.

“This dinner is a great opportunity to bring the Scottish rugby community and the charity together.”

Pte Meenagh is still involved in intense rehabilitation at Hedley Court, with a fortnight at home every six weeks, which is allowing him to renew links with Cumbernauld RFC.

LCpl Robert Fraser of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) followed his father, Ian, from Fochabers into the Armed Forces at the age of 16, but like Scott he was a hooker. He captained his school team in Catterick and represented North Yorkshire. But when he went to recover a vehicle in Afghanistan that had been bombed a day earlier, he uncovered a second 60kg bomb that exploded, shattering his left leg, broke his spine in two places and caused serious brain injuries.

He also believes he was lucky, as American soldiers happened to be close by and got him out quickly. His father, who was supported financially by Help for Heroes after taking time off work to care for his son, said: “To see him walking and talking to you, at a media launch like this, is quite incredible because he spent a month unconscious when he came back to the UK. We were told he would probably not walk or talk again, and could be in a permanent vegetative state.”

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LCpl Fraser, who is 24 and has a three-year-old daughter, Courtney, added: “The last year has been all about changes for me. I should not be here. I should be on the floor dead. So it is great to be here and able to support Help for Heroes. I love rugby, I’m good friends with Mark Lee [former Scotland sevens captain and soldier], and I am glad to see something happening in Scotland.

“There are a lot of events in England, but not so many in Scotland for Help for Heroes, so it’s great news.”

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