For Senior Private (SPTE) Edwin Wekoba, May 30, 2017, was a day everything in his life changed as a soldier giving his all for the country.
In an interview with KDF's yearly Magazine Majeshi Yetu (Our Servicemen), he vividly recounted the day he captioned Black Friday that saw him lose both his limbs and barely escape with his life.
While on patrol duties serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), along the TharakaFafadun route, his tank ran over an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
The attack reportedly happened around 9.00 a.m. just a few minutes after the patrol team had left the Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Somalia, Wekoba being the point driver of the patrol team comprising seven tanks.Senior Private Edwin Wekoba (seated) with Cabinet Secretary of Defence Raychelle Omamo and Sports and Culture Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed, before the opening match of the East Africa Community and Cultural Event Football tournament at Moi International Sports Centre,Kasarani on August 12, 2019.Daily Nation
The point tank (the first tank in a battle formation) ran over the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) before a fierce firefight ensued from the Al Shabaab militants engaging the forces.
‘It was a normal day just like any other; we woke up ready for our patrol duties. The weather was chilly and quiet and I sensed all was not well. As the convoy snaked through the rough terrain of Tharaka, the unexpected happened, I heard a loud bang that shattered my tank,’’ SPTE Wekoba recalled.
He added that after the loud bang he struggled to control the tank and in his struggles, to secure a vantage point for the gunner to fight back the adversaries, he did not realise that he had been hit and his legs mangled beyond repair.
He recalled that another soldier, a gunner identified as Corporal Edward Magondu fired back at the enemy and killed the Al Shabaab trigger man on the spot, at which time the rear tankers advanced to cover Wekoba’s badly dented tank.
Not so long after, KDF aeroplanes joined the tankers in battle and struck at the enemy even as medical personnel worked on his injuries at the scene, and as soon as the enemy was vanquished Wekoba was airlifted to Wajir before being airlifted to the Defence Forces Memorial Hospital in Nairobi.
‘‘Though I was in pain I remember my colleagues carried me to the plane. They encouraged me to stay strong that I will make it despite the serious injuries I had. For me I was happy because my colleagues fought back, repulsed the enemy and inflicted maximum casualties on the enemy; they fought gallantly,’’ Wekoba informed.Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) tankers during a parade.File
Wekoba would spend three months at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and when he regained his memory, reality dawned on him that his legs had been amputated owing to the magnitude of his injuries and it was the only way the doctors could save his life.
The nightmare that dawned after his discovery was shocking as it is reported that he took to ripping out syringes, removing bandages from his amputated legs and emotional outbursts as he came to terms with the loss that he had encountered in service to his country.
‘‘Not being able to go to the toilet normally and depending on someone to assist me was the worst in my journey to recovery. I remember my firstborn son making fun out of it, and it hit me that I had to struggle to ensure I can do it. And from that I was able to overcome a lot of challenges that I thought I wouldn’t,’’ Wekoba recalled.
It was his son mocking him, however, that awoke him to the fact that he still had the strength to make some decisions himself. It turned him around and improved his perception of life, after which his health started picking up.
He then took to learning other activities like using a wheelchair (electronic) and also customizing his vehicle to fit his new state, a matter at which he has performed exceptionally well.
According to the reports, SPTE Wekoba now works at the 76 Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion (76 ARB) welfare centre where, among other duties, he is responsible for counselling other soldiers who are facing challenges.
He is also the recipient of a Silver Star of Kenya from the President Uhuru Kenyatta and lives with his family at the Kenyatta Barracks. He insists that he will continue serving the country in whatever capacity possible.
‘‘Nothing can stop me from defending my country from external aggression. Even though I don’t have my limbs to move around, I am able to undertake any tasks that I will be assigned. I have my brain which I will use to strategize and my hands will do the fighting,’’ he concluded.
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