A SOLDIER who survived a roadside explosion which claimed the life of his comrade is to marry the woman who helped him rebuild his life.
Dean Middleton popped the question to girlfriend Jade Savage on a trip to New York, going down on one knee in the middle of an ice rink at the Rockefeller Centre in front of cheering crowds.
Proposing in such a public way might seem risky, but Dean, 29, from Seaham, was pretty sure what the answer would be.
“We have talked previously about our life together and about marriage and what-not. So I was fairly sure – but you can never be absolutely confident,” he said.
“I can’t even remember if she actually said yes. She was that taken aback, she just stood there crying, then put the ring on her finger.
“I said ‘Is that a yes?’ but she was too busy crying.”
Dean was on a routine patrol in the Bowri desert in Central Helmand, Afghanistan, when his armoured vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in 2010.
Colleague corporal Steve Dunn, from Gateshead, died in the attack while Dean was thrown from his gun position by the force of the blast and knocked unconscious.
After being flown back to Britain, he underwent life-saving surgery to reduce swelling on his brain, before spending weeks in an induced coma.
He had to have a steel plate inserted in his head, but has fought back to fitness with support from the Royal British Legion and MoD-funded Help for Heroes Phoenix House at Catterick Garrison.
Dean moved back to his parents’ home in Seaham after his release from hospital, where he was reunited with former classmate Jade when she got in touch to ask if she could interview him about his memories of the attack for her nursing degree.