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‘Never give up and be yourself’: Aberdeen war veteran swaps assault rifle for guitar in music career to inspire others

An Aberdeen war veteran has swapped his assault rifle for a guitar to inspire others to “push through all boundaries and never give up”.

After facing the bullets of war in operations all over the world, Nicky Aiken has decided to share his ups and downs as a Royal Marine through the power of music.

Taking a shot at a career as a solo artist, the 40-year-old has released his debut single drawn on his experience in war-torn Afghanistan and gruelling commando training.

Mr Aiken wrote I’m On Fire in just five hours after his former band split up during lockdown as a message to “believe in yourself more than anything without fear”.

Nicky Aiken and his unit in a Wadi at a forward operation base in Afghanistan. Supplied.

He said: “This song tumbled out of me with such energy and forcefulness I knew it was right immediately.

“I’ve had my share of hard knocks but commando training is all about pushing beyond what you think your limits are, staying focused and staying positive no matter what you’re going through.

“It’s character building. It’s not until the different scenarios hit you on the front line – when you’re tired, you’re getting two or three hours of sleep, you are out on patrols and you realise exactly then why these guys pushed you as hard as they did.”

Nicky Aiken at Australian SAS under contact. Supplied.

‘Don’t be scared and stay true to yourself’

Mr Aiken joined the Royal Marines aged 18 in 1999 and spent the next seven years fighting side by side his comrades on the front line at various locations across the world.

And while he will never forget the first time he was shot at, he said his military training taught him to focus his talents to overcome life’s challenges and achieve his goals.

Nicky Aiken in his home studio singing his new single I’m On Fire. Picture by Kath Flannery/DCT Media.

He added: “You grow up quickly in the military. While other people my age were out partying, I spent my 21st birthday on an Afghan mountain.

“I’ll never forget the first time that somebody shot at me – I had this unusual feeling and that tingle, that cold sweat down the back of my neck; and then it kicks in and you don’t even think about it, it just becomes automatic.

“You can’t go into that half-hearted – everybody has to commit at the same time, and you have to believe in yourself and the guy next to you that you’ll look out for each other.

Nicky Aiken and his unit at one of their boarding ops. Supplied.

“It taught me self-belief. It’s given me the strength to just be myself and never be afraid and never give up; and it’s the same message I tried to put into my music – don’t be scared and stay true to yourself.”

Following the release of his first track, Mr Aiken is currently crafting a kitbag full of songs and is planning a tour in the summer.

Our special investigation into life on the front line in Afghanistan 

Afghanistan: The stories of Scotland’s forgotten war

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