Joker ... Ben McBean tells people his Mercedes 'cost an arm and a leg'“In all fairness, I’d probably think I was a footballer if I saw me, but it’s good because if they think that, then they are not seeing my injuries, which means I must be doing all right.
“People say, ‘That’s a nice car, mate. Must have cost a fair bit,’ and I tell them, ‘Yeah, it cost me an arm and a leg!’”
It is five years since Ben stood on a Taliban landmine which blew off his right leg and left arm
It would have been easy to settle for life in a wheelchair and try to eke out his compensation to support himself for the rest of his life.
But Ben McBean is made of sterner stuff. The anniversary of the day he nearly died means more to his family than it does to him, he admits, adding: “Normally, for me, it’s kind of just another day.
“I might think, ‘Oh, it’s been five years’, but then I just crack on. But for my parents, it’s ‘This was the day we almost lost our kid’.”
It was while Ben was recovering in hospital in 2008 that he found the inspiration to try to get back to some sort of normality.
He says: “I was lying there and the London Marathon was on TV. I knew I wanted to do something and that could be it, but I also knew I would have to get off my ar*e to achieve it.”
But first he had to get used to using a prosthetic leg, and he recalls falling over a few times.
He continues: “When they gave me my running leg I ran down a hill, fell over at the bottom, and the physio said, ‘Great. You’re ready’.”
Just a year after losing his limbs, Ben did his first London Marathon and says: “I didn’t do any training. I just rocked up on the day and I finished ahead of 11,000 people.
“I had to stop after 13 miles because all the skin on my stump fell off, so the next 13 miles was a bit of an epic.”
He has since run another marathon, trekked to base camp at Mount Everest and completed the gruelling National Three Peaks Challenge, all for charity.
Ben says: “I don’t see it as inspirational. I just take action.
“It would be really simple for me now to sit in a wheelchair and have an easy day and have someone else make a meal for me, instead of making it myself.
“I could say I am going to make the most of my life but then just sit there claiming benefits because I am disabled.
“My view is that I may as well get on and do things now, while I can, because I’ll probably be less physically fit a lot sooner than I should be because of my disability.
“At least I will be able to look back in years to come and think I smashed it all in while I could, then I can just chill out and put my foot up.”
Despite his life-changing injuries, Ben was awarded less than £300,000 in compensation — an amount that would have to cover his care needs for life.
With guidance from parents Joyce and Jamie he invested the money, buying a derelict 25-bedroom house in his home town of Plymouth.
He says: “It was proper horrible — all the tramps used to live in there.
“Even when I bought it and we were getting the builders to do it up, they still treated it like it was their home, trying to just walk in like they had squatters’ rights.”
It took a year of legal battles for Ben to secure the property — and he insisted on finding the tramps somewhere else to live.
He says: “I couldn’t just turf them on to the streets. I finally got it all sorted out and got some students in there, renting, but I had a few dramas with them getting drunk, punching the windows through and kicking the walls in.”
The property also had a bungalow in the grounds and a plot of land, and Ben’s inv
ment paid off when developers bought them off him at a big profit. He reinvested the money in three apartments on a redeveloped site which promises to be one of the smartest addresses in the South West.
It means Ben is now conservatively worth more than £2million and he says: “It is just something to fall back on in the future.
“I wasn’t convinced at first about buying property but it has paid off. I am not a property developer or anything, but I have got a few properties under my belt.
“Hopefully one day I will sell up. I really wouldn’t mind owning a hotel. I am learning as I go.”
Ben is also making a career of motivational speaking and is in demand, having already given talks to big business, banks and football clubs, including Chelsea.
He says: “I wouldn’t say I am inspiring people — that would be big-headed — but I am just sharing my experiences, having a laugh and enjoying meeting people.
“People ask me what Afghanistan was like and I tell them, ‘Actually, I had a really good time — until I got blown up!’
“I grew up a bit, saw a lot of things, did a load of things, got close to my mate
We were just doing our jobs.
“People forget that everyone wants to be there, otherwise they wouldn’t have joined.
“I wanted to be there and I don’t put people off joining the Forces now.”
With his hard work and success so far, Ben can afford to start looking to the future.
He says: “At some point I will hopefully meet a girl, settle down and have a family. That’s what I always wanted. I have just been set back three or four years.
“I was engaged but it didn’t work out, so we are not together at the moment. I was really shocked when it ended because I was not good with girls anyway so when it happened I was like, ‘That’s it, I’m never going to meet anyone’, but I have met more girls than ever since then.
“It’s frustrating because I look kind of normal so they don’t know I’m injured. If I go on a date I have to explain why I can only carry one drink back from the bar each time, or why I have to get the chef to cut up my steak.
“I find that difficult, but it’s OK. I’m not out to try to meet a girl at the moment, so maybe I will seem more normal.”
For the future, Ben will carry on with his property portfolio, motivational speaking and his charity fund-raising.
He says: “When I came back, my mum and dad were really scared that they couldn’t afford to get any older or get sick because I was almost like a new-born baby again, unable to feed or dress myself.
“Now, if I say I am going out or going to drive to London, they don’t need to worry. All I have wanted to do since my injury is to get back to normal — and I’m almost there.”