LUCKY soldier Daniel Leonard has been dubbed the “bullet magnet” after surviving two Taliban attacks in a fortnight.
The squaddie, a former pupil of Houghton Kepier School, has only been in Afghanistan since April, but has already had two near misses.
In the first, a round smashed apart the butt of the 21-year-old’s rifle during a firefight.
Just days later, the second high-velocity bullet thudded into his body armour.
The Wearsider said: “I’ve been unlucky to be hit twice, but very lucky to have survived.
“Let’s hope it’s the last time.”
Daniel, who is serving with the 3rd Battalion, The Rifles, was providing cover for Army engineers building a bridge in Nad-e Ali North when the second incident happened.
He said: “The platoon commander came over and as I turned the round came in.
“At first, I thought the boss had tapped me on the shoulder to tell me to get down. It felt like a really hard prod in my back.”
Daniel realised he had been shot and found the tear in his Osprey body armour.
He said: “I had no time to think about it as we had to keep moving forward.”
When they got back to base camp, Daniel found the bullet had cracked one of the ceramic plates designed to protect him.
He said: “When I saw the size of the bullet that hit me and how it had smashed the plate, I realised I had been lucky. If it wasn’t for my armour I’d have been a goner.”
Two weeks earlier, his platoon came under heavy fire from fighters and as Daniel ran for cover his gun was damaged by an incoming shot.
“You are bound to get shot at out here and I thank God the armour worked,” he said. “It could have been a different story.
“The lads have been giving me grief and labelled me the bullet magnet.
“A few of them haven’t been so happy standing close to me since the incidents.”
Daniel, who is on a six-month tour-of-duty, said his escapes had shocked his family back home in Sunderland.
“They were obviously worried when I told them,” he said.
“But I’ve assured them it won’t be happening again.”
One of Daniel’s best friends, Rifleman Sheldon Steel, 20, from Leeds, was killed during a Taliban bombing last November.
“I think all the time about my mate Sheldon,” he said. “He was an amazing lad and was like a brother to me.
“I miss him so much. He gives me the strength to carry on the fight.”