Gallant soldier who lives with shrapnel in head

Friday, October 15th, 2021 00:00 |
KDF’s Major Robert Ondimu during an interview with People Daily. Photo/PD/ZADOCK ANGIRA

He has lived with shrapnel in his head for nine years since the unfortunate incident during a routine patrol with his co;;eagues on September 7, 2012.

There has been a continuous ringing in his ears, since then, even after several operations to remove shrapnel embedded in his brain.

Major Robert Ondimu, who had earlier been hospitalised for three months, also lives with a scar at the back of his head, an experience which has made him appreciate the little things in life.

Ondimu attached to 9 Kenya Rifles went into Somalia initially under Operation Linda Nchi as a platoon commander. He was a 21-year-old Lieutenant then.

Interesting experience

He recalls that being in Somalia was an interesting experience to him full of successes and mishaps.

“I was an agile young man ready for action. We were preparing to advance to Kismayu from Afmadhow where we joined I Kenya Rifles.

We successfully did patrols, ambushes and fought the enemy during the march to Kismayu.

We marched to, and took over Kismayu before returning to Afmadhow,” Maj Ondimu says.

However, during a routine patrol in Miido on September 7, 2012 while on a resupply mission from Afmadhow his platoon which was on foot patrol came under attack that started with the detonation of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) followed by gunfire.

The impact lifted him and he lost consciousness as the fighting continued. His platoon members put him back into the Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and engaged the attackers, killing many.

“It was about 8am and it caught me unaware. I don’t know how the IED was detonated but as I walked close to the APC, I was hit and lifted in the air.

I was the only one hit. I just heard a huge explosion and lost consciousness,” he said.

“The platoon Sergeant was quick and they managed to kill the attackers before putting me back into the APC.

I was later told by the doctors that the shrapnel hit my cranium and some shrapnel entered the brain,” he added.

The overall commander quickly called for an evacuation helicopter, which airlifted him to Dhobley Level 2 hospital before being transferred to Forces Memorial Hospital.

“The evacuation was quick. I woke up from my coma a few days later,” Maj Ondimu recalls.

About seven shrapnel were stuck in his head but doctors assessed that it would be more dangerous to attempt to dig them out.

The first thing he asked for when he woke up from the coma was his rifle. He had to be restrained by the nurses who pleaded with him to stay in bed.

However, the repeated news of the fighting by his KDF soldier colleagues in Somalia made him desire to go back to the operation.

Hospital visitations

He was discharged after three months and stayed home for hospital visitations before returning to the battlefield out of his own volition.

He admits that he has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but interventions of the chaplain, counsellors, senior officers and colleagues have helped him manage.

“I never believed in PSTD. Every time I pass the exact place I was hit, life flashes through my eyes remembering that this could have been my grave. Your life will never be the same again.

I have a constant ring in my ear and live with nerve injuries. But as a soldier I am always ready to serve,” Maj Ondimu.

The attack happened when the officer, now 31, had just celebrated his 21st birthday.

He however says he has since learnt to live with the small disability.

Yesterday, the military marked KDF Day celebrations. October 14 is marked annually commemorate and to celebrate the acts of valour and gallantry by KDF heroes and heroines. 

The day has been observed since October 2012 following the launch of the Operation Linda Nchi in October 2011.

The military has already put in place robust structures to address all the welfare aspects.

It has already constructed an ultra-modern Defence Forces Wellness Centre at the Lang’ata Barracks to help officers who are injured and those who suffer from combat stress.

The centre’s Deputy Senior Medical Officer Lieutenant Colonel Obadia Yator told People Daily that the facility also caters for the civilian families of the officers.

More on News