Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: No way to treat a hero and his family

Only those who have lost loved ones who died in the service of their country can really understand the anger of the mother of a young Northern Ireland soldier who was killed by a terrorist bomb in Afghanistan who feels he was snubbed in recent military heroism awards.

There is no doubt that Ranger Aaron McCormick was an extremely brave young man, who constantly walked at the front of patrols in Helmand province clearing the path of booby-trap bombs.

The 22-year-old was hailed as a hero, as unfailingly brave and as a man whose death left a gap in the ranks which no ordinary soldier could fill. But his heartbroken mother wanted tangible recognition of his courage and wonders why he - and two other soldiers from the same Royal Irish Rangers regiment who were killed in Afghanistan - were not among the 140 soldiers recognised by military honours last week.

And she has another justifiable complaint. When Aaron's body was flown back to Northern Ireland the family were not allowed to see it being taken off the aeroplane as is the case in England. Aaron's father had to wait for an hour outside the airport gate in driving snow before the young soldier's coffin was brought through.

Every word from Mrs McCormick is tinged with sadness and hurt. Her son paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country by giving his life. He was courageous beyond words but she feels that, in the end, Aaron and his family were let down by the Ministry of Defence.

There was no formal recognition of his bravery and the aftercare shown to his bereaved family seems to leave a lot to be desired. While casualties in war are inevitable, every soldier killed leaves behind grieving relatives and the MoD should ask itself if it does enough to help those families. Certainly Mrs McCormick feels it fell some way short and she presents a strong and poignant case.

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