Belfast Telegraph

RIR’s Afghan victims honoured

By Lesley-Anne Henry

It was a day of huge pride underpinned with immense grief.

The families of three Northern Ireland soldiers killed in Afghanistan proudly received the Elizabeth Cross in recognition of their loss.

Relatives of Royal Irish Regiment Rangers Aaron McCormick (22), David Dalzell (20), and 27 year-old Lance Corporal Stephen McKee, were presented with the cross during a parade at the unit's base in Shropshire on Saturday.

The Duke of York, RIR Colonel-in-Chief also handed out campaign medals to the hundreds of Ulster troops recently returned from a six-month tour of duty in Helmand Province.

“We are very, very proud,” said Gordon Dalzell, whose son David was killed in a friendly-fire incident in February. “It has been a rollercoaster from February and this is another hurdle to get over.”

Mr Dalzell, from Bangor, told Forces News: “We are so proud of our son David and the Royal Irish Regiment's achievements in Afghanistan. Closure will be one day at a time for us.”

Coleraine soldier Aaron McCormick was killed while clearing roadside bombs in the Nad-e-Ali region of central Helmand on Remembrance Sunday last |November. And Stephen McKee, a career soldier from Banbridge who was serving on the frontline along with two brothers and his father-in-law, died when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in March — just weeks before he was due to come home.

The Royal Irish Regiment spent six gruelling months fighting the Taliban in Helmand Province.

Corporal Barney Gillespie, from Ballymena, who lost a leg in an explosion in January, was also among those receiving medals on Saturday.

Background

The Elizabeth Cross is granted to the next of kin of military personnel who have died on operations or as a result of an act of terrorism. It is a silver cross with a laurel wreath passing between the arms. It includes symbols representing England (rose), Scotland (thistle), Ireland (shamrock) and Wales (daffodil). The serviceman’s name is engraved on the back. The medal was first granted in 2009.

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