The story of Damien Thomlinson, an Australian veteran of the war in Afghanistan, is one that continues to evolve and inspire people around the world.
Inspired by the military history of his Grandfather, Damien joined the Australian Defence Force and at the age of just 24 achieved his dream of becoming a Commando. This elite group is tasked with the most physically demanding, mentally challenging and dangerous roles in the armed forces.
It was while serving in Afghanistan with the 2nd Commando Regiment that Thomlinson’s life was changed forever. In April 2009, whilst on night patrol in Southern Afghanistan, Damien’s unit drove over an improvised Taliban bomb. Damien suffered horrendous injuries in the explosion, which resulted in both of his legs being amputated. The damage to his body was so severe his medical team claim it is a miracle he wasn’t killed, and there were many times throughout his immediate treatment and beyond that medical staff did not think he would pull through.
Most people could not imagine recovering and moving on from something as debilitating as the loss of two limbs – but Damien isn’t most people, and giving up is not in his nature. Instead of sinking into depression and retreating from the world, Thomlinson decided to treat the loss of his legs as another challenge to be overcome, a challenge that would forever change his life.
With no time for self-pity, Damien threw himself into his rehabilitation and set about re-claiming his life, on his terms – a testament to his incredible drive and determination. With a great deal of commitment and hard work he taught himself to walk again with state of the art prosthetic legs.
His ongoing quest for physical and mental rehabilitation has seen him undertake many challenges. He has participated in the TARGA Tasmania classic car rally, and has walked the demanding Kokoda Track to remember his friend Private Scott Palmer, who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash one week before returning home to Australia. Private Palmer’s father walked with Thomlinson to honour his son’s memory.
Today, Damien uses his experiences, passion for life and journey to inspire and motivate. His best-selling autobiography, Without Warning, which continues to sell across Australia, the US and UK. He also commits time to causes important to him as an ambassador for DefenceCare, Soldier On, the Commando Welfare Trust and other initiatives that aim to raise awareness and funds for injured soldiers and their families.
An active athlete and keen surfer prior to his injuries, Damien took up snowboarding as part of his personal challenges, and hopes represent Australia at the Winter Paralympics in 2018. He was also part of the Australian Team for the 2014 and 2016 Invictus Games.
While much of Damien’s work has been in the public eye, for the last three years he has studied acting behind the scenes. His big break came in blockbuster Hacksaw Ridge, where Damien was cast alongside Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaugh and Sam Worthington in the Mel Gibson-directed movie. It went on to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Damien continues to act and is President of the Australian Veteran’s Film Festival.
2018 has seen Damien continue to grow his production company that focuses on veteran-related projects, as well as participate in this year’s ‘Australian Survivor’ as one of the Champions in the ‘Champions vs Contenders’ format airing on Network Ten. He is also one of the on-air talents for the ABC’s coverage of the Invictus Games, using his profile to help shine a light on other veterans’ amazing stories.
These collective experiences all feed into Damien’s motivational speaking, an area in which Damien has carved out a successful career. His triumph against adversity, positive attitude and ambition for the future continues to resonate with people from all walks of life. Above all, Damien’s incredible journey stands as proof that no challenge is too great and that the ANZAC spirit truly is alive and well.