Tributes paid at soldier's funeral
A British serviceman killed in Afghanistan on Remembrance Sunday was a pioneering soldier who cleared the way for his colleagues, mourners at his funeral heard.
Royal Irish Regiment Ranger Aaron McCormick, 22, was helping detect roadside bombs in Helmand's Nad-e-Ali area when he died in an explosion.
Hundreds gathered in the tiny village of Macosquin, Co Londonderry, Northern Ireland, for his funeral and burial with full military honours.
Church of Ireland minister the Rev Mike Roemmele told mourners at St Mary's parish church: "In every aspect of his military life he was a pioneer who cleared the way that others might follow him." He added that the soldier's mottos were "clear the way" and "judge us by our deeds".
"Ranger Aaron McCormick lived and died as an exemplary soldier who fulfilled and exceeded the high expectations of both mottos," he said. "In serving his country he also served the people of Afghanistan for whom he had great compassion. Judged by his deeds, he did not fall short. Today we honour him and express our pride in him."
Ranger McCormick's close relatives - his mother Maggie, father Leslie, brother Michael, sisters Tammy and Callie-Ann, and girlfriend Beckie - led mourners. Four of his friends paid special tribute to him in the church and introduced songs which reflected his courageous character.
Regimental colleagues from Malawi, South Africa, the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland joined mourners.
Ranger McCormick was known as Vallon Man, the soldier in a patrol who carries the mine detector. He recently wrote to his mother asking for some artist's paint brushes. She wondered if he had developed an interest in art, unaware that he intended to use them to dust the ground gently to expose hidden and potentially dangerous objects.
Mr Roemmele added: "Aaron was a credit to the British Army, to the nation, to Northern Ireland, Coleraine, his school and this village where he spent his childhood and adolescence and where many of his friends still live."
A street collection in his memory raised more than £1,500 for the Royal Irish benevolent fund, money which will be used to benefit serving and former members of the regimental family and their dependants in times of need.