18 Aug 2023

Former NZ soldier hit by shrapnel while fighting in Ukraine

From Morning Report, 7:46 am on 18 August 2023
Kiwi Shannon Dillon - injured in Ukraine

Former New Zealand soldier Shannon Dillon recovers after being hit by shrapnel in Ukraine. Photo: Supplied / Shannon Dillon

A New Zealand soldier fighting in Ukraine is facing months of rehab after being hit five times by shrapnel and bullets while fighting in the Donestk Oblast region.

The former Defence Force infantry soldier, Shannon Dillon, has been fighting at the frontline for more than a year but has spent much of the last few weeks in hospital.

He has already had three surgeries and is facing more to remove the shrapnel lodged in his body.

Dillon and his unit were tasked with taking a village as part of a larger operation to secure a foothold into a supply line into a major Russian held city.

He said parts had been taken a few weeks earlier with minimal resistance, but that was not what they encountered.

"They basically set up like a kilometre long ambush for us.

"We walked into a bit of a surprise."

Of his team of 39 soldiers, two were killed and 28 were injured in the mission.

"I took shrapnel from my shin, shrapnel through my knee. Shrapnel through my leg, a bullet through my hip that hit my bone and went down my leg and ended up behind my knee.

"Shrapnel or a bullet, I'm not sure which one, it is through my hip, and a big chunk of my forearm was blown out.

"I think that's about it. I got hit by five or six different things, so it was hard to keep count."

Former New Zealand soldier Shannon Dillion shrapnel removed from body

Shrapnel removed from Shannon Dillon's body. Photo:

He said he remembered the whole ordeal, but also had the benefit of being able to watch the attack back from body camera footage.

"Unfortunately, it's the nature of the beast.

"Sometimes you get them, sometimes they get you, but it's still never really that fun when you're on the receiving end.

"We were taking accurate fire and accurate mortar fire and suicide drones, and it was considerably more than we first guessed.

"I mean we suspected there to be a few, but we came up against a much larger force than we intended."

Dillon has a long road to recovery. He's suffered significant nerve damage to his leg and arm.

"They have removed a good chunk of shrapnel, but there is some shrapnel sitting on nerves in places they don't really wanna go digging.

"I currently can't feel a good chunk of my leg or foot, unfortunately the bits I can feel I wish I couldn't."

Dillon and other soldiers from the unit will be taken out of Ukraine for further nerve damage treatment and to remove the final bits of shrapnel.

He said the shrapnel they have removed was like rusted chunks of steel, from the size of a thumb nail to a 10 cent coin.

Despite the long road to recovery and rehabilitation, he is not discouraged - Dillon said he would keep fighting for as long as his body holds up.

"It's hard to keep a Kiwi down."

Dillon has plans to visit New Zealand at Christmas to see his son.