Charith, the Soldier

Charith, the Soldier

Injured in Battle and Disabled for life;

now an inspiration,

role model and a hero

“I first met Charith in the early hours of 19th November 2008 in ward number 8 of Sri Jayewardenapura General Hospital, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka. I have not only treated him in my ward for three months but helped him in various ways. He recognises me from my voice. I have seen him, but he has not seen me and he will never see me. In 2008, he was a patient in my ward, but today he is a friend. He is totally blind with one arm amputated following an injury which he sustained on 18th November 2008 in the war front. He has not given up but has progressed in life despite his disability and today he is one of the leading vocalists in the Sri Lanka Army. He inspires many groups of people including those in the Army and others as well. He is truly unique”

This is his story………………..

The life-changing moment

Video Credits to Charith Music Channel – YouTube

Family background

Charith was an eighteen-year-old boy from a remote village in Mihintale in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. He was the third in a family of four children and the only boy to his poor farming parents. He studied in the village school, but only up to GCE ‘O’ – level. He had no special interests but used to sing on and off at school functions. Charith gave up schooling after the ‘O’ level examination and was unemployed. He was helping his father in paddy cultivation in his village as and when required.

Joins the Sri Lanka Army

Charith enlisted in the Sri Lanka Army in 2007, when the North- East war was raging and there was a requirement for more men to be recruited to the Army. The brave eighteen-year-old unemployed lad was determined to serve his nation and took the plunge with many others in his home town. He underwent 3 ½ months of intense training at the Army camp at Puttalam and joined the 5th Battalion of the Vijayabahu Regiment as a Lance Corporal. This regiment was actively engaged in military operations in the Northern war front. On the 25th of May 2007, Charith together with the others who completed basic military training were dispatched to the war front for active military service in the battle against terrorists.

Duty in the Northern War front

Charith underwent more training as he was to be given very important, but risky tasks on the war front. These tasks included a preliminary survey of enemy bunkers, conveying information to his superiors and planning attacks on the enemy defense lines causing sudden chaos in the enemy bunker followed by attacks from the rear to take over the forward defense line of the enemy. In short, his duty was reconnaissance and bunker blasting: a very risky job indeed!

The Brave Soldier goes on his Mission- 18th November 2008

The target was identified. It was the enemy bunker at Kilali close to the Jaffna lagoon. The forward defence line of the enemy extended from Kilali in the west to Iyakachi in the East in the Jaffna peninsula. The eight-man company together with the instructor/leader embarked on their mission as darkness set-in late in the evening. The target was 5 km away. Charith was right in front carrying his weapon, his helmet on and wearing a body armour jacket. He also had his backpack and was carrying a 2 kg bomb to blast the enemy bunker. It was a secret mission and every endeavour was made to prevent the enemy from detecting the forward movement of the “bunker blaster” group of the army. He used night vision glasses so that he could identify his path clearly. Furthermore, the terrain was shrub jungle and was definitely mined. The leader, Charith, was crawling and creeping his way through toward the enemy bunker in darkness, identifying any hidden mines and defusing them to clear the path for his team-mates to advance.

A Mine Laid by the Enemy Explodes

It was around 11 pm and Charith had crawled for nearly 1 ½ hours when he detected a mine that was buried. He tried to remove the mine and diffuse it, but it was an unusual mine called an Earth Mine that exploded right in front of his face injuring his right arm and face. He saw a bright light immediately, and that was the last time he saw light. If not for the body armour he would have died on the spot. He was howling in pain and the soldier just behind, his friend Lance Corporal Ratnayake, went to his assistance. He carried Charith on his shoulder and took him to safe ground only to find that his right arm had been blown off below the shoulder by the blast, one eye was hanging out and the face was completely injured and disfigured. He could not see and the entire area was dark. After preliminary first aid, he was dispatched to hospital in a van. The mission was abandoned.   

Injured Charith is Transported to Hospital

Charith reached Base Hospital, Palaly in the High-Security Zone. According to him, the pain was unbearable and he had completely lost his vision and also his right arm. After resuscitation, Charith was airlifted to Colombo for further treatment with a few others who had sustained injury. From the Ratmalana airport, he was sent in an ambulance and was admitted to my ward at Sri Jayewardenapura General Hospital, Nugegoda (SJGH) in the early hours of the 19th of November 2008 when I was informed about these admissions. It was my responsibility thereafter to manage Charith and others. I undertook that task with great responsibility and wanted to do my best for these unfortunate soldiers.

Treating Charith at SJGH

I carried out a formal amputation of his right arm below the shoulder joint in keeping with the principles of war surgery. The facial wounds were cleaned and irrigated well with normal saline to wash out contaminating material from the blast and left open for suture later to prevent infection. The face was swollen beyond recognition. As regards the eye injuries, he was referred to the Consultant Eye Surgeon at the hospital but nothing much could be done to restore vision even in one eye. It was pronounced that he will be totally blind for the rest of his life. We continued his care at the hospital attending to the other injuries and he remained in the ward for nearly three months. There were things we could and there were things we could not do.


Many Visitors

During the days of the war, it was customary to see many visitors coming to the surgical ward to visit the injured soldiers to talk to them, to give them food items and daily requirements and comfort them. Some religious dignitaries also visited them to talk to them, bless them and inspire them to hope for the best with the parting words that they will not be forgotten. (when you listen to the video clip below you will realize in the words of Charith himself that all these are temporary and superficial)

Charith meets a Caring Visitor

Many visited Charith, many brought him gifts, many blessed him and parted, but there was one who held on to him for many months and years looking into all his needs until he left this world suffering from chronic kidney failure. He is the late Chris Goonesekera, who happened to be a patient in my ward at the same time. Chris who is also related to me seeing the suffering and agony of these injured soldiers started talking to them and developed a close friendly relationship with Charith. His first gift to Charith was a radio to listen to music. He gathered more details about Charith and his family and realized that this disabled boy and his family did not have a decent home in their village in Mihintale. They were living in a wattle and daub house with Zinc sheets on the roof. He visited Charith on many occasions and started to build a small house for him and his parents at his own expense. Thereafter he initiated a fund for this purpose and many of his friends and relatives donated generously to complete the project. I too got involved in this worthy cause and made sure that this poor family had a reasonable house to live in.

Charith leaves hospital

I could not keep Charith indefinitely in my ward and after nearly three months he was sent to the Military Hospital for rest, psychological assessment and further therapy. From there he was sent to the Ranaviru Rehabilitation Centre at Ragama, North of Colombo. This is a centre established by the Sri Lanka Army. It is a shelter for war heroes and other army personnel who are differently-abled and require long-term care and rehabilitation.

Charith spent about one year at this centre. That period was not wasted. Experts in rehabilitation at this centre started training him in Information Technology with a special software package –JOSE- designed for the blind. He was also trained to use the mobile phone using the JOSE software package which has software for the visually impaired. He also started training in music. All these programs helped him a great deal in the years to come.

During this period of one year, he was permitted to leave the centre and be with his parents at Mihintale for short periods. He was accompanied by his father on these trips to and from the centre.

Charith visits me at home

On one occasion when Charith was on vacation he visited me at my residence together with his father accompanied by Chris. My relation Chris informed me that more funds were needed for completing the house which he had already started. I contacted a few of my friends in Colombo immediately and we took Charith with us to their respective homes to appeal for funds for this worthy cause.

I remember holding Charith by his left arm and taking him to the homes of two of my friends, namely Vishantha Hettithanthrige and Chandima De Silva. On hearing the pathetic story of this unfortunate soldier and actually seeing his plight, they contributed generously to the building project instantaneously and the construction continued thereafter. Charith and his family had a roof above their head although more had to be done at that time. The house has now been completed successfully by the Army.

Blind war hero meets his sweetheart

Charith used to travel by bus from his home to Ranaviru Sevana accompanied by his father.  The eleventh of September 2011 was a lucky and unforgettable day for Charith. That day an 18-year-old girl by the name of Suvini Sevandi sat by the side of Charith in the bus. Sevandi was studying nursing and was on her way to nursing school. She was from semi-urban Ragama while Charith was from a remote village off Mihintale. She had no idea about that. Sevandi only noticed the “blind boy” staring at the sky and decided to talk to him. Phone numbers were exchanged and thereafter there were regular phone conversations between the two and Sevandi also visited Charith at the Ranaviru Sevana on many occasions.

Love has no barriers

The regular phone conversations helped them to understand each other and they fell in love and decided to tie the knot. That was a bold decision on the part of Sevandi. Her parents objected. But they could not stop their daughter from marrying a war hero and finally gave their blessings.

From Ranaviru Sevana to Abimansala (Anuradhapura and Dehiwela)

ABIMANSALA: These are centres established by the Sri Lanka Army to provide life-long medical care to war veterans who were injured in battle and are now disabled and crippled for life

ABIMANSALA: These are centres established by the Sri Lanka Army to provide life-long medical care to war veterans who were injured in battle and are now disabled and crippled for life

In the meantime, Charith was shuttling from Ranaviru Sevana to Abimansala at Anuradhapura as this was closer to his home in Mihintale. His training and rehabilitation continued. Charith who was awarded nine medals for bravery started training in music and singing.


For training in music and singing, he had to move to the Abimansala at Dehiwela called Mihindu Seth Medura. His instructors detected that Charith had a good voice for singing and they desired to develop his talent. This required him to follow classes and training sessions under many distinguished Sri Lankan musicians including Pandit Amaradeva. He joined the disabled soldier’s musical group and started singing at musical shows and also on other shows organised by Rupavahini (TV), Sri Lanka Army and other organisations. He developed his talents fast and his love for singing grew even faster and gradually became popular in the local music scene. Charith Kulathilaka is a famous name in the Sinhala music world not only in Sri Lanka but overseas as well in countries like Cyprus, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Kuwait where he has performed at musical shows on the invitation of the Sri Lankan Expatriate communities in those countries.

A Grand wedding at Abimansla Anuradhapura six months later – 25.3.2012

The wedding was fixed for the 25th March 2012. It was the first wedding of a disabled soldier at the Abimansala. Therefore the authorities decided to have the function on a grand scale with 500 guests including senior Army Officers and the Army Commander being invited for the wedding. At the auspicious time of 9.21 am on 25/3/2012 Suvini Sevandi lovingly said “I DO” standing on a beautifully decorated Poruwa in the presence of the distinguished gathering.

Video Credits to Charith Music Channel – YouTube

Blessed with children

Charith and Sevandi were blessed with their first child on 9th February 2012, a baby girl. Three years later it was another baby girl. On the morning of 25th December 2020, I received a call from Charith. That was not only to wish me for Christmas but also to give me the good news that they have produced another child, this time a baby boy born 10 minutes before midnight on the 24th. I congratulated the couple, and wished them all the very best for the New Year.

A Popular local vocalist

Charith has developed much in the field of music. He has taken part in singing contests including the Ranaviru Real Star and was 14th out of 7500 contestants. Charith has produced two music albums (DVD) and sings over 40 songs with some of them being his own compositions. He appreciates all the training he received from a variety of popular musicians in Sri Lanka. It is true that in the past he was referred to as “the blind boy”, but today he is well known among the Sinhala music lovers in Sri Lanka as “Charith Aiya”, the popular Sri Lankan vocalist in the Army.

Aim today – Progress further and Inspire people

Following the blast in the Northern war front on that fateful day of 18th November 2008, Charith went through an agonising and depressing period. However, after psychological and physical rehabilitation combined with training in new fields at the Army Rehabilitation centres, he has developed in leaps and bounds. He has forgotten that miserable period. The blind disabled boy never even thought of marriage, but the meeting of his future wife unexpectedly while travelling in a bus and the subsequent marriage to Sevandi has changed his life completely. The family of five lives happily with Charith’s parents at their home built by Chris Goonesekera. It is rather unfortunate that Chris has left this world but I am sure if he was living he would have been more than delighted at the progress made by Charith over the last 12 years.

Now Charith has no regrets. He indeed lost his right arm and his vision, but that loss has inspired him to move forward in life by developing his hidden talents which today is music and singing. Charith has broken through many barriers, done a huge amount of work to overcome obstacles and challenges on his way to success. Nothing can hold him back now and he lives the life he wants to live. He has made many friends through singing and they are true friends for life.

He says, Sir, my mission and vision today is to inspire those who are similarly disabled, give them the mental strength, courage, educate and advise them to progress rather than lament over what is lost. Disabled soldiers look up to him as a role model.


This story was written and published at the request of Charith Kulathilaka, initially an injured soldier in my care, but now my friend. The video clips and some information necessary to complete the story were provided by Charith. I am grateful to Charith for all the information provided and also those who were responsible for the video productions which he gave very gladly and willingly. 

Charith’s facebook link is given below for reference. Please do check his youtube channel also and support him. Thank you…

Dear Reader, you would also like to read our next Story, Please click this link : The Siege of Jaffna fort during the civil war in Sri Lanka1990 and also another post followed as a Image gallery ‘War Front – Part 1’

One thought on “Charith, the Soldier

  1. Thank you for sharing this heart warming story of Ranaviru Charith. How much your brilliant surgery and the subsequent opportunities have transformed his life. May you and your friend who built the home for him be blessed for the wonderful punya karmaya.

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