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  • It's been twelve years, but you still remember it like it was yesterday.

  • You and two of your countrymen were in Cambodia, working for a charity that cleared landmines,

  • but that didn't matter to the Khmer Rouge.

  • The brutal regime kidnapped you, planning to execute you.

  • You barely escaped with your life.

  • So what are you doing back here?

  • After a close call, few people would return to one of the sites they came closest to death.

  • But you aren't most people.

  • You're Chris Moon, and you've stared death in the eye more than once.

  • And you're back in Cambodia for one reason only - to come face to face with your captor

  • and give them exactly what they deserve.

  • The year was 1993, and Chris Moon was a British army captain looking for his next great mission.

  • He had served his country with honor, but he wasn't done yet, and his desire to make

  • the world a safer place led him to one of the most dangerous charities in the world

  • - the Halo Trust.

  • This high-risk group of volunteers travels all over the world to current and former combat

  • zones to remove one of the most pressing threats to civilians - land mines.

  • With over six thousand volunteers worldwide, they're one of the world's largest anti-mine

  • organizations, and their members have little problem putting themselves in danger for the

  • greater good.

  • Active in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, South America, and the Balkans, they

  • often face opposition from the local government.

  • But few countries posed a bigger challenge than Cambodia.

  • Like many countries in Southeast Asia, Cambodia had a growing communist movement during the

  • Cold War.

  • But their leadership had darker plans, and the Cambodian Civil War brought the Khmer

  • Rouge to power.

  • A paramilitary organization led by the nationalist Pol Pot, by 1975 he controlled all of Cambodia,

  • and he enforced his rule with maximum force.

  • Part of that was the extensive use of land mines, which scattered the countryside.

  • Not only did both sides of the civil war use them in combat, but many people used them

  • to protect sites like temples from looting and invaders.

  • The problem with land mines is, they're supposed to be hidden.

  • And when you hide that many, you're bound to lose track of them.

  • The result?

  • Cambodia has more amputees per capita than anywhere in the world.

  • That made Cambodia a top priority for the Halo Trust, and Chris Moon was ready to answer

  • the call.

  • But the Khmer Rouge, which ruled Cambodia until 1999, were deeply distrustful of outsiders

  • and the paramilitary forces were notorious for hostage-taking and executions.

  • Moon and his team were clearing mines in the area when they were quickly surrounded by

  • gun-toting Khmer Rouge soldiers.

  • They wasted no time identifying themselves as civilians with a charity, but it didn't

  • matter.

  • They were taken into custody, and when the locals who they had been helping asked about

  • them, they were told they would be taken for interrogation - and then executed.

  • Moon knew he had to think fast.

  • As a former Army Captain, he had been in tight situations before.

  • The Khmer Rouge had many young, radicalized soldiers who wouldn't be open to talking

  • to a local, and the gleeful giggling among their captors chilled Moon to the bone.

  • Images of being forced to play Russian Roulette like in the movie The Deer Hunter flashed

  • through Moon's head.

  • But something was different about the ringleader of their kidnappers.

  • He seemed calm, intelligent, and cautious.

  • He had even planted a rose garden in the middle of the jungle, amid all the carnage.

  • Moon knew if he and his fellow hostages were going to get out of there, he was going to

  • have to focus on the man he calledMr. Clever.”

  • There were hard days of interrogation ahead, as Moon was separated from his partners and

  • met with demands about why they were really here.

  • It took hard work, but he maintained their narrative of being civilian workers trying

  • to clear landmines, and appealed to Mr. Clever's intelligence.

  • The execution of three innocent aid workers would bring a lot of unwanted attention to

  • the Khmer Rouge, and as a divisional commander Mr. Clever did not want to get blamed for

  • any problems for the regime.

  • Pol Pot was notorious for killing his own people, and getting his attention was not

  • something an ambitious young soldier wanted to do.

  • After three days that felt like forever, Chris Moon and his men were led by their captors

  • thirty miles through a mine-filled jungle - to freedom!

  • Chris Moon was free, but he was haunted by the experience.

  • The Khmer Rouge had taken him to the brink of death, repaying his work to help their

  • country with threats of murder.

  • That chapter of his life wasn't closed yet, but there was no time to dwell on it.

  • Despite his family worrying, he went right back to work for the Halo Trust.

  • He continued going on missions for them, clearing mines around the world, and two years after

  • his close call in Cambodia he was sent to another dangerous hotspot - Mozambique, where

  • years of civil war and local conflicts had left the country riddled with almost 200,000

  • stray landmines.

  • Clearing mines is taking your life in your hands every time, but Chris Moon wasn't

  • scared of this new, mine-filled land.

  • He ran every night along the perimeter of their base, taking in the new landscape.

  • But his luck ran out one day while clearing long strips of mine along the former combat

  • zone.

  • In a safety lane - supposedly already cleared - he came across an unknown mine.

  • Mine drills are supposed to detect the metal in mines, but this was a newer mine, constructed

  • with less metal.

  • Chris cleared it as safe, returned to the cleared lane - and triggered it, nearly killing

  • him and causing massive injuries.

  • With his right leg blown clean off and his right hand shredded, he crawled towards the

  • remnants of the mine to inspect it before the medical team got there and flew him to

  • safety.

  • Chris Moon was no longer in a war zone, but his battle was just beginning.

  • His leg was left behind in the rubble, and doctors at the Johannesburg hospital treating

  • him quickly determined his hand couldn't be saved.

  • Another battle was beginning for Moon - adjusting to the loss of two of his limbs.

  • But he wasted no time tackling rehabilitation with the same determination that he approached

  • everything else.

  • Soon he was strapping on an artificial leg and hook, swimming in the rehab pool, and

  • learning to walk so he could get back to his next goal - running.

  • Moon had a powerful desire to do good, and he was determined to parlay his new circumstances

  • into opportunities.

  • His work in anti-land mine activism even gained the attention of one of the world's most

  • famous activists for the cause - Diana, Princess of Wales, who honored him at an event not

  • long before her death.

  • When the 1998 Winter Olympics came around, he brought the ceremonial torch into the stadium

  • to start the procession.

  • Moon would have gone back to work clearing landmines as soon as he was equipped with

  • prosthetics, but there was one problem - the metal in his new hand and leg would interfere

  • with the metal detectors used to dig up the mines.

  • So he would have to help the Halo Trust another way, and he settled on raising money for charity.

  • He trained relentlessly, learning to run on his prosthetic like it was second nature.

  • Within a year of being blown up by a landmine, Chris Moon was running in the London Marathon.

  • But he wasn't done - he kept training, and blew past the recovery times for people with

  • similar injuries.

  • In 1997, he ran the challenging Marathon De Sables, and since moved on to ultramarathons,

  • including the Badwater Death Valley Ultra - running 135 miles in over 120-degree fahrenheit

  • heat.

  • As an activist against landmines and for greater inclusion for people with disabilities, Chris

  • Moon became one of England's most prolific fundraisers.

  • Not only did he raise millions for charity, but he became a popular motivational speaker.

  • His life story was even profiled in a documentary - I Shouldn't Be Alive: Kidnap in the Killing

  • Fields.

  • Despite all he had achieved, and the trauma he had survived after, Moon found his mind

  • kept drifting back to those three terrifying days he spent as a captive of the Khmer Rouge

  • - and particularly, to the tense interrogations and negotiations he had shared with Mr. Clever.

  • It was 2005 when he realized what he had to do.

  • He needed to go back and find Mr. Clever.

  • They had unfinished business.

  • It wasn't the first time Moon had been back in Cambodia - he had walked the length of

  • Cambodia as part of a charity march a few years earlier, after the fall of the Khmer

  • Rouge.

  • But this time, he was here on a mission.

  • It wasn't easy to track down Mr. Clever, but he managed, and was ready to confront

  • the complex memories he had of the man.

  • Mr. Clever was the man who interrupted their mission of mercy and plunged them into three

  • days of terror.

  • He was also the smart man who eventually understood they were innocents and took them to safety.

  • But Chris Moon wasn't prepared for what happened when he finally looked into his captor's

  • eyes again for the first time in twelve years.

  • Moon had never forgotten Mr. Clever, and it turned out Mr. Clever had never forgotten

  • him either.

  • He greeted him politely, and the two men began to talk.

  • Word had reached Mr. Clever of Moon's exploits in charity work, about his near-death experience

  • in Mozambique, and of his triumphant return to Cambodia.

  • Mr. Clever even took Moon around the sites of Cambodia where he had been captured.

  • Many of the buildings had been burned down, and the forest had overgrown some of them.

  • Moon reflected that the place that had been a site of terror for him all those years ago

  • was now one of peace.

  • The mines had mostly been removed, the young men who were radical soldiers under the Khmer

  • Rouge were now finding their own purpose away from war, and the two former enemies were

  • able to find common ground.

  • Moon won't share Mr. Clever's real name, but he revealed that the former Khmer Rouge

  • soldier had a 21-year-old daughter studying abroad in New Zealand.

  • The age of Pol Pot was over, and with it came new opportunities and new freedom for the

  • people of Cambodia.

  • Moon, too, has made the most of his new start - earning a Masters Degree and founding his

  • own company, Making the Best.

  • Able to finally put the terror of his time in Khmer Rouge captivity behind him, he'll

  • be the first to tell you he regrets nothing about his life and credits all the challenges

  • he's overcome for making him the man he is today.

  • He even hopes to meet Mr. Clever again one day, and see where their journeys have taken

  • them since those three days in Cambodia.

  • But first, there's more marathons and a lot more money for charity ahead for Chris

  • Moon.

  • For more on unlikely survival in a terrifying hostage situation, check outCrazy Rescue

  • Mission of Hijacked Airplane - Operation Entebbeor check out this video instead.

  • Thanks for watching, and see you next time!

It's been twelve years, but you still remember it like it was yesterday.

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Man Kidnapped and Blown Up By Mine, Returns For Revenge

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    Summer posted on 2020/09/10
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