Landmine blast soldier buried next to daughter
A Northern Ireland soldier killed in a landmine blast in Afghanistan has been laid to rest beside his baby daughter.
Lance Corporal Stephen McKee was buried with full military honours in his home town of Banbridge, Co Down, almost a year to the day after the death of his newborn child Keeley.
An estimated 10,000 mourners brought the town to a standstill at the weekend, with all shops closing as a mark of respect.
Among them was First Minister Peter Robinson and Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson.
The Royal Irish Regiment soldier and his daughter were reunited in the town's New Cemetery following an emotional funeral service at the nearby Holy Trinity church.
Church of Ireland Archdeacon John Scott told mourners that the 27-year-old had died trying to do good in a “messy world”.
“Stephen and Keeley have gone on ahead,” he said.
“May we all, especially those who cherished him most, live in the faith of meeting again and honour his memory in the service of others as he did.”
Lance Corporal McKee died in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand Province when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device on March 9.
His younger brother Michael, who served alongside him in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish, was one of the first on the scene after the deadly blast.
On Saturday, Michael was among soldiers who carried his coffin.
His body was repatriated to the UK on St Patrick's Day when family and friends wore bunches of shamrock as they lined the High Street in Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, to watch the cortege pass through the town.
The soldier leaves behind his wife Carley, his parents Heather and Bobby, his brothers, Michael, Gareth and Robert, and his sisters, Kelly and Rebecca. Archdeacon Scott urged his heartbroken family and friends to remember he had not died in vain.
The churchman said his sacrifice and that of colleagues in the armed forces was making a difference.
“The seeds of hope and freedom and grace that they plant by their selfless giving of themselves will indeed one day bring the harvest of love and peace that everyone dreams of — not only for Afghanistan but the world over,” he said.
L/Cpl McKee was the second member of his family to die in the line of duty. His uncle, Richard, a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, was murdered by the IRA during the Troubles in 1981.
The soldier had strong family connections with the Royal Irish Regiment.
As well as his brother, his cousin and father-in-law also serve in the 1st Battalion, with another brother serving in the 2nd Battalion.
L/Cpl McKee was employed as a patrol second-in-command in Afghanistan. On the day of his death he was taking part in a cordon and search of a small village.