Brave soldiers honoured after campaign
SOLDIERS in Colchester paid tribute yesterday to lost comrades as they were given a range of awards to honour their bravery.Troops in the Essex town returned home from a six-month tour of Afghanistan in October, and many have now been recognised in the operational honours announced.
SOLDIERS in Colchester paid tribute yesterday to lost comrades as they were given a range of awards to honour their bravery.
Troops in the Essex town returned home from a six-month tour of Afghanistan in October, and many have now been recognised in the operational honours announced.
Derek and Jenny Eida , whose son Captain Alex Eida was killed in Afghanistan in August, met his comrades at a special event at the new Merville Barracks.
The 29-year-old soldier, a member of 7 Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, was killed by militia in the troubled Helmand Province.
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Mr Eida, of Chipstead in Surrey, said they were pleased to be in Colchester and grateful to be invited.
He said: “It is very difficult to find out exactly what was going on out there and it is helpful to speak to people who were alongside him.
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“We wish their efforts had more publicity. It tends to get swamped with other current events that might appeal more to the general public.
“I'm sure Alex would be pleased today, but he wouldn't show it. He'd certainly be playing it down to us. He was a very laid back character and he would have said that it is a team effort and not just for those singled out.”
Many awards have been issued, including a rare posthumous Victoria Cross for Corporal Bryan Budd, who died in a firefight with Taliban forces and 11 Military Crosses.
Corporal Mark Wright, who like Cpl Budd was from 3 Parachute Regiment, died in action in September and was awarded a George Cross after he was fatally injured while saving the lives of members of his patrol.
Outgoing commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, Brigadier Ed Butler, who himself was awarded a CBE, praised the high standards of the soldiers' work.
He said: “We're here to recognise their bravery and understand what heroism is all about.
“It has been a pleasure to lead these men and women into action. It was a very, very tough campaign and very challenging - one of the toughest for a generation. They performed as you would expect, and not just for a day or two - but for the whole six months.”
The medals will all be presented at an official ceremony at Buckingham Palace next year.
Major Paul Blair, who was given the Distinguished Service Order, said it was humbling to be recognised in such a way.
He said: “The first weeks back home were a little bit hard, but seeing friends and family quickly helps you get back in the swing of things. There's a lot of media coverage but it is still difficult trying to explain to my mum what I do.”
One Colchester-based soldier from the Royal Regiment of Artillery, Lance Bombardier Daniel Byrne, received the Queen's Commendation for Bravery.
LBdr Byrne, who has lived in the town for four years, was given the honour for his brave actions after members of his battery group were stranded in a minefield.
He said: “One of our lads got hit by an anti-tank mine. Myself and the medic ran over and saved the bloke's life, although he lost both of his legs. It was a on a minefield though and we had to wait for it to be cleared before we could get out.”
The injured man, LBdr Ben Parkinson, was given an emergency tracheotomy as they waited to be rescued.
LBdr Byrne added: “It just comes naturally. We were asked before, 'is it the training?' but I just did it because it was my mate. I wanted to save his life - it's my job.
“I'm happy and ecstatic to be awarded this. I'm honoured, but I wear it for everybody.”