Brave mum-of-four is RAF’s flying angel – charity honours nurse Dawn for saving lives in Afghanistan

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Updated: August 10, 2012

AFGHANISTAN: Brave nurse Dawn McDonald has helped to save the lives of hundreds of wounded soliders.

On one occasion Dawn held a young ­soldier’s hand as he wept for the friend he had just seen killed.

The devastated 18-year-old lad had serious wounds to his face, but as she cared for him while flying home from Afghanistan, Dawn was more concerned about his mental well-being.

“They had been on patrol and saw what they thought was a safe house,” she said. “His friend kicked the door in, but it was booby trapped. He died.

“All this lad kept saying was, ‘It should have been me.’ But I told him, ‘I bet your parents are glad it wasn’t you.’”

Dawn, 50, has helped to save the lives of countless wounded war heroes by nursing them on flights home from Afghanistan.

As a reservist volunteer with an RAF evacuation squadron, she has witnessed many harrowing scenes. It’s a world apart from her day job as a civilian ward sister at a private hospital in Essex.

“It was very difficult at first because it was like bringing home my own kids as a lot of the injured were the same age,” she said.

Dawn, who has four children aged 18 to 26, is now awaiting a second tour of duty after being promoted to sergeant. She was ­recently honoured for her bravery by the Polo for Heroes charity which flew her to the USA for a gala dinner with recovering servicemen.

“People can’t understand why I’d want to go again,” she said. “But it was so rewarding ­getting those boys home. I thought that if my own kids were injured I would hope there were people like us who would do the same for them.”

An auxiliary ­Aeromed nurse with RAF 4626 Squadron, she first went to ­Afghanistan for a four-month tour during the ­Panther’s Claw operation in Helmand, which saw 15 British soldiers killed and 57 injured in two weeks.

She worked aboard ­massive Hercules C130 aircraft on flights that always took place at night and could last 17 hours or more.

Pilots often had to fly at low altitudes to ­prevent further injuries to ­patients with abdominal or eye wounds. The aircraft would dip from side to side to avoid missiles from the ground.

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