A brave former soldier at a national housebuilder who was shot in the face during his second tour of Afghanistan has praised his employer’s support for the armed forces and mental health charities.
Former reconnaissance soldier and assault pioneer David Duncan, who is now safety, health and environmental advisor at Vistry Group, spent furlough while employed in the travel industry completing 16 health and safety qualifications, before joining the housebuilder.
The 31-year-old, of Vistry Partnerships North West, has spoken of his pride over Vistry’s Ministry of Defence Gold Award for backing military personnel, and the company choosing mental health charity Mind as its charity of the year.
David, who served with the 19 Light Brigade Reconnaissance Force in Operation Herrick 10, suffered a gunshot wound to the chin and shrapnel to his torso and limbs. He re-joined his parent unit, 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, on his return to the UK and was medically discharged in 2012. Thanks to industry programme BuildForce – which Vistry also supports – he has since been able to put his military skills to use in housebuilding.
The father-of-two, from Dukinfield in Greater Manchester, said: “With housebuilding, the challenges are different every single day on all the differing sites and I like that. You could work on your own, and then with 30 or 40 people the following day. It’s that ability to adapt to the situation very quickly and think on your feet. I feel welcome at Vistry, everyone is engaging, has a good attitude and is willing to support you, it’s a great fit for me.
“I got injured at work, in Afghanistan, and I didn’t want anyone else to get injured doing their job and that’s what drew me to health and safety. There’s a lot going on in construction and there’s a huge variety of people that work in the industry – I felt I could make a difference and help them.
“In health and safety, we’re very methodical in achieving a task and you need it to be that way in construction. To treat every task in the same way, whether seemingly easy or difficult, and to follow the process to make sure the job’s done safely, correctly and to the best quality possible. A lot of that can come from the military because from day one, it’s ingrained in you that there’s a process to follow and it’s there because it works.
“I volunteered for military service and no one owes me anything, it was a choice. But it’s nice to know that choice has been recognised and it’s fantastic that Vistry supports former military personnel, BuildForce and Mind. I haven’t received any special treatment, it’s just that realisation that those with military backgrounds have transferrable skills that they can bring to housebuilding – that acknowledgement and understanding of what you can bring is fantastic.
“I’d encourage all former military personnel to invest in themselves and be confident in their own abilities. While they may not have initial skills in construction, they do have problem solving and teamwork skills, and they’re trustworthy, dependable and self-disciplined.”
David’s role in the army was as a rifleman in the infantry. He had the added responsibility of building field fortifications such as barbed wire fences, sandbag walls and digging trenches safety and quickly. Also, obstacle crossings and methods of entry into enemy territory, including the use of explosives.
After suffering from mild traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, David travelled around the world and met his now partner. He then worked at a travel management company before being furloughed. Through BuildForce, he took part on work placements, for site experience while studying and achieved a NCRQ Level 6 Diploma in Applied Health and Safety. His current role at Vistry is to upskill and support site teams and educate them in their responsibilities.
Caroline Logan, programme director at BuildForce, said construction was a great choice for those leaving the military.
“It’s the parallel lines between the two – there’s the attention to detail, sometimes working in dangerous situations, long hours, and it’s those transferrable skills that are really needed in the construction sector,” she said.
Vistry is a proud supporter of the Armed Forces Covenant and is committed to ensuring the nation’s past and present Forces personnel, and their families, are treated with respect and fairness. In recognition of this commitment, in 2019 Vistry was the first dedicated housebuilder in the industry to receive the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme’s Gold Award – the MOD’s highest award, for providing employment opportunities and helping those connected to the military onto the housing ladder. Vistry also signed the BuildForce Veteran Alliance Charter, last year, to support ex-military personnel into housebuilding.
David joined the army cadets when he was 13 and joined the army at 16 when he left school. His father was in the military for 17 years, including 15 years in the Royal Engineers and two years in the Royal Military Police. David recovered from his injuries but has lost feeling in the lower part of his face including his teeth and jaw – and is unable to lift his left arm, but that does not affect his work. He lives with his partner Lara and children, Oscar, 3, and Noah, 1.
To find out more about Vistry’s support for the military and mental health charities, visit