The family of an Army lieutenant from Craigavon who was killed by a renegade Afghan soldier described him as a man who had a passion for “making a difference”.
Neal Turkington, known as ‘The Turk’ was due to celebrate his 27th birthday within days.
He and colleagues Major James Joshua Bowman and Corporal Arjun Purja Pun from 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles were killed in Afghanistan on Tuesday.
The three soldiers, serving as part of Combined Force Nahr-e Saraj (South), were killed in a suspected premeditated attack by a member of the Afghan National Army.
He joined the Gurkhas in 2008 and having settled in to regimental life in Brunei, continued his Gurkha education by attending the mandatory three months of language study in Pokhara, Western Nepal.
At the end of the language training he conducted a memorable trek through Nepal in support of the Gurkha Welfare Trust and perfected the art of speaking Nepali with an Ulster accent.
Outside of his military life Neal had dedicated so much time to other people, he was a humanitarian at heart, except in the boxing ring, and this was shown through a charity that he and friends had established in South America. Paying tribute, Army pals have recalled his sharp dress sense and love of books, and while strict, had an easy, reassuring way with younger, inexperienced soldiers.
In a statement, Lt Turkington's family said: “Our family is devastated with the news of Neal's death in Afghanistan
“Neal was jovial, kind, considerate and loyal to his family and friends. Our family were inspired by his presence, and generosity.
“He was relentless and steadfast in his pursuit of those causes he believed in with his passion for making a difference whatever the circumstance. We are all so proud of him – we couldn't have asked for a finer son, brother and friend.”
Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Strickland MBE, Commanding Officer 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles, Combined Forces Nahr-e-Saraj South said: “Lieutenant Neal Turkington was cruelly taken from us in his prime, gunned down as he took his turn on duty in the Company Operations Room.
“He was a courageous and determined platoon commander who was already known across the battalion as a man who could be trusted.
“He was a true friend to his fellow officers and a leader to whom his soldiers would willingly entrust their lives.”