A former soldier who served in one of Afghanistan’s deadliest spots has gone back to university to finally pursue his dream of being a designer.
Rob Keith was in the British Army for seven years where he became a qualified senior weapons engineer.
After leaving the army as a corporal due to injuries he is finally pursuing his passion in design at Nottingham Trent University.
The 34-year-old said: “I think creativity was something that always been inherent in me throughout my army career.
“But I never had the platform or the environment to do it.
“My fiancee was actually the one who encouraged me to apply for a university.”
Sarah said: “I miss him but I realize it is for both us.”
Rob, originally from Essex admits that he loved anything to do with the army since he was a kid.
At the age of 20, in 2005 took an oath of allegiance, and after long training courses he was finally deployed to Afghanistan in 2010.
The former military said: “I thought I would feel so proud fighting for democracy.
“But I felt the opposite when I came back.
“I felt like I didn’t do enough and I could have done so much more”.
Rob was based in an International Camp, part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kandahar, which was ‘down the road from Helmand province’.
He said: “It was a big base in the middle of a war zone.
“But I felt really safe there, the worst that could have happened would be few rockets coming in.
“The camp that I was in was one of the big ones, you would have Burger King, hairdressers, coffee shops nearby.
“We lived in ISO containers which were converted into little rooms.
“That was luxury for us out there.”
Ex-soldier shared that the saddest part of this journey was seeing about 20 coffins repatriated daily.
He added: “Almost every day we would stand on the parade to pay our respects.”
While in Afghanistan the only way to communicate with family members was through letters and one phone box.
Cellphones and computers were banned due to the risk of the devices being hacked according to Rob.
In April 2011, Rob returned back to Germany, continued working as an engineering technician.
Later he decided to get a parachute regimen course but began having severe pains in his legs.
He added: “I ignored it and continued training to the point when my legs gave away
“Turns out I was getting cracks in my chins; mussels were ripping off my chins
“Only few years ago I found out that I have arthritis.”
The former soldier explains that due to his medical condition it left without a chance to get promoted later in his army career.
Rob made the decision to leave the army with a medical discharge.
That same year he met his future fiancée, who later encouraged him to study design.
Rob said that women in town avoided soldiers due to their reputation in partying, so Rob disguised his Australian accent.
Months after the return from Afghanistan Rob admits he started having ‘panic attacks’.
Rob’s friend from Afghanistan was struggling as well and eventually hung himself.
He said: “A Scottish guy, really never would have thought, he was the life of the party I thought he would be the last person to commit suicide”.
PTSD is something that both the soldiers experienced after coming back from a war zone.
Rob admits: “I was in a terrible state and alcohol was only worsening it.
“I attempted to end my life a couple of times by overdosing on tablets.
“The other time I tried to slit my wrists, I have still got the scars.
“Therapy really helped me now I feel like I’m in the stage in my life where I can manage it a lot better.
“It took me five to six years after I returned to fully get my life back together.
“I think quitting drinking saved my life.
“And now having a different perspective on life and having this goal to be a designer, having this new focus, this new objective is great”.
After graduating Rob is hoping to add value to his current family business – online shop “Bewoodz” back in Germany.
He said: “I want to provide for my family.
“Sarah and I have been talking about having kids soon.”