Soldiers and politicians remember sacrifice

Commemoration for soldiers who died in Afghanistan. A service was held to mark one year since the end of combat operations in Afghanistan. The service was held in the garrison church in Thiepval Barracks Northern Ireland. ' Photo by Ross Fernie
Commemoration for soldiers who died in Afghanistan. A service was held to mark one year since the end of combat operations in Afghanistan. The service was held in the garrison church in Thiepval Barracks Northern Ireland. ' Photo by Ross Fernie

Soldiers, families and relatives of some of those killed in Afghanistan have taken part in a Service of Commemoration, Reflection and Remembrance at Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn coinciding with the national service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The service was held in St Columb’s Church led by the Senior Chaplain for 38 (Irish) Brigade Father Michael Fava and Chaplain to The Royal Scots Borderers, 1 Scots Padre Philip Francis.

It was attended by officers of 38 (Irish) Brigade as well as Officers and Soldiers from The Royal Scots Borderers, 2 Rifles, the Royal Navy, Royal Irish Regiment, the Royal Air Force and troops from Army Reserve units around Northern Ireland who have served in Afghanistan. Representatives from a number of the families of those killed in service also attended. During the service a cross made from brass shells from Afghanistan was blessed. It is a replica of that blessed at St Paul’s Cathedral and which will now go to the National Arboretum after being the centre of church services in Afghanistan for many years.

Padre Philip Francis of The Royal Scots Borderers, 1 Scots based at Palace Barracks, Holywood said it has been a poignant and moving day for both personnel and families. “Not only here in Northern Ireland, but also in London and elsewhere there are memories and very personal thoughts being shared,“ he said.

Lagan Valley MLA Brenda Hale, whose husband Captain Mark Hale was killed whilst serving in Afghanistan, attended the commemoration service at St Pauls in London with her daughter Tori.

Speaking afterwards Tori Hale said, “Today is an emotional and poignant day for the families like ours. We all have different journeys but are on the same road.”

Brenda Hale added: “For me, the service was a true reflection about how we as a nation honour our war dead. As we stood outside and watched the parade and fly-past you know that their sacrifice will always be remembered. Afghanistan is scorched into the memory of many, and everyday will bring its challenges, but we keep going, because not too would mean they had died in vain.”