Sunderland Taliban attack soldier back in the arms of model girlfriend

Soldier Daniel Leonard, of  Sunderland with girlfriend Emma
Soldier Daniel Leonard, of Sunderland with girlfriend Emma
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Daniel Leonard is finally reunited with his sweetheart after twice escaping death in Afghanistan.

The 21-year-old squaddie has returned home and into the arms of girlfriend Emma, after his tour of the war-torn country which almost cost him his life.

Squaddie Daniel survived two Taliban attacks within weeks of each.

>>Click here to read more about Daniel’s lucky escapes

>>Click here to read Emma’s story

Earlier this year, the 21-year-old hit the headlines when a round hit the butt of his rifle during a vicious firefight.

Two weeks later, a bullet was fired into his body armour as he provided cover in Nad-e Ali North.

Now Daniel, who is serving with the 3rd Battalion The Rifles, has spoke of his relief at returning home safely to be with girlfriend of three years Emma Crowther, 17, and family and friends.

He is enjoying a two-week rest break before returning to Afghanistan until mid-October.

Daniel, of Philadelphia, said: “It has been great to be back home and see everyone after being out there for such a long time.

“I went out there thinking it was going to be a lot less aggressive than it was. People were saying it had quietened down a lot, but it was really busy when we were there.

“When we got back to Camp Bastion to fly home, we were told there had been a lot of reports from the area saying there had been a lot of contact.”

Despite coming close to death twice while fighting on the frontline, Daniel said he was just doing his job.

“I don’t see it as doing anything out of the ordinary,” he said. “I was just doing my job and it was something that happened while I was doing it.

“When I first got shot, I wasn’t 100 per cent sure I’d been hit but when we got to safety my colleagues confirmed it and it was a shock.

“The second time, when we got back my Sergeant Major told me to take the plate out of my armour and to have a look at it.

“It was smashed like a window would and that was when it really hit home about what we were doing.”

Model Emma, of Houghton, who met Daniel through friends, said: “I miss him madly while he’s away. He’s so brave.”

Daniel passed out in April 2010 when he realised his childhood dream of serving in the Armed Forces.

The former Houghton Kepier pupil said: “I always wanted to join the Army because my Dad was in the Navy and I think because of that upbringing I’ve always aspired towards joining the forces.”

Daniel’s younger brother, Jack Leonard, 16, also hopes to sign up with the Royal Marines when he is 17.

Twitter: @sunechochief