Year of anguish for soldier's family

IT feels an eternity since Lorraine McClure saw her beloved son but the memory of him is as fresh as if it were yesterday.

IT feels an eternity since Lorraine McClure saw her beloved son but the memory of him is as fresh as if it were yesterday.

Tomorrow will mark a year since Aaron was killed while serving with the Royal Anglian Regiment in Afghanistan and there has not been one day gone by since then that Miss McClure has not thought of him.

That fateful knock on the door which delivered the horrifying news that every parent with children in the armed forces dreads, is still so painful and so fresh in her mind.

Today she spoke about her struggle to deal with life after the death of her 19-year-old first born and how life has changed for the whole family.

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Miss McClure is still living in a strange rollercoaster world, ranging from a feeling of almost drowning in her own grief, to laughing at the silliest memories of the former Westbourne student, who was always smiling.

She said: “I have found the bigger anniversaries, like Christmas and his birthday, are difficult, but you do them as a whole family so it is not as bad.

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“It is the smaller dates that only I know about that are really hard. Like October 6 was when he passed out, and I remember the date when I saw him for the last time. I have got hundreds of memories of him and I always feel he is here. He is all around us constantly. I just need him to be all around me.”

The 37-year-old, who is also mother to Lewis, Daniel and Ryan, barely finishes her sentence and continually breaks down when she thinks about her son.

His photographs cover the living room walls of their Marlow Road home, and his medals are displayed proudly in a glass frame, making it clear that his memory will never be forgotten.

Miss McClure bears a prominent tattoo of her son's face on her arm, always wears his necklace and carries a photo of him wherever she goes. His brothers cannot bear to fully let him go either, as large images of the sibling they all looked up to, remain stuck on their bedroom windows.

Miss McClure said: “I think everyone will remember Aaron just for the smile he had. He had a real presence. I will always remember him with pride and that will never go away-no matter how many years pass.

“I've always been quite a private person and like to keep myself to myself. If I don't speak to people and get on with my day, it is ok, but as soon as I talk to people about him, I start crying because it's like a huge reminder that he is definitely not coming back.

“If I am just in my own world, I can pretend that he is just away for a bit even though I know deep down that he isn't.

“This pain isn't going to last another year, or ten years, it is forever.”

What do you think of the situation in Afghanistan a year on? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

The family have all dragged themselves through the past year, carrying their huge burden.

Everyone is struggling to get on with their lives but have hopes for the future. Lewis still has plans to join the army one day, and Lorraine is determined to find a job she likes.

Living with a constant stream of sadness forced Miss McClure to take up driving lessons and get a car to give her the freedom to get away from it all.

Her very first lesson was the day before Pte McClure died and she remembers him being “really chuffed” that she was set to learn the life skill.

His death put all their lives on hold but the thought of being able to drive to her son's place of rest whenever she chose was enough to spur her on and pass her test.

She said: “I go to the cemetery nearly every single day I can. I passed my test about six months ago. Aaron said he was chuffed I was going to learn.”

She also joined the nine other mothers who had sons in the Vikings regiment that were killed in action in a 100-mile walk from the Royal Anglian Regiment's barracks in Pirbright, Surrey to St Peter's Church in Duxford.

The walk, which she decided to do at the last minute, raised thousands of pounds for the Royal Anglian Afghanistan Memorial Fund.

She said: “The walk with the nine mothers was extremely emotional. To speak to people who know exactly how you are feeling and what you are going through is so nice.

“The lows are still really bad. The pain gets less as in it's not every day but I still think about him every day. It doesn't matter what you are doing, he is there.

“It doesn't take much to make me think of him-just silly things like an advert on the television or a song.

“For all of us[in the family], it has made us realise there is a lot more important things in life than everyday moans and groans. We have had a couple of get-togethers over the last year and the happy times we had with Aaron always come out then.

“We are still just as close.”

Miss McClure will be joining the families of Pte Robert Foster and Pte John Thrumble, who were killed in the same incident in the Helmand Province, together with a small group of the Vikings for the anniversary of his death. The Thrumbles will be spreading their sons' ashes on Ben Nevis.

Over the past year, the three families have grown close.

Miss McClure said: “They have been like a rock.

“I made the decision to spend the first anniversary with the other families. My father, Allan, and stepmother, Linda, will also be coming with me.”

The rest of the family will be going to Ipswich Cemetery on Pte McClure's anniversary to mark the occasion.

Vi Currie, the 56-year-old grandmother of Pte McClure, said: “We all still miss him very much. It feels like such a long time since we saw him but then again, it doesn't seem like a year since we found out he died.

“I always remember his smiling face. He will always be that 19-year-old to us. We will never know him as an older man and that is hard.

“I sometimes find it hard at work when people mention their grandchildren and I always have to tell them about Aaron.

“Every time I see another solider killed, I am back at square one. We want to keep his memory alive.”

On that fateful day last August, an F-15 jet dropped a bomb on the three soldiers while they were trying to end a Taliban ambush.

It was initially thought that it had been an American blunder which caused the tragedy, but it has now emerged the families of the dead soldiers have been told it could have been the error of a British air controller.

An internal investigation by the Royal Military Police was passed to defence chiefs and they considered there was enough evidence to refer the case to the Independent Army Prosecuting Authority (APA).

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed the case is being looked at but it is not known when the outcome will be revealed.

Miss McClure said: “I was quite shocked about the possibility of a manslaughter charge. It will be a weight off my shoulder to find out what really happened. I think initially we all felt so angry at the US but as time has gone on, I am not angry at anyone or any country-just the situation. I just want the fighting to end.

“I try not to think about what the government is doing because it seems to make me angry. Every time there is another death, I get angry at the government for sending troops out. They haven't had to go through what we have.

“Blame doesn't come into it, we just want to know why.”

When she hears of other deaths of troops in Afghanistan or Iraq, her thoughts are immediately with other families, knowing the pain they are going through.

She added: “When Aaron first went away, I was watching the news constantly. Now I can never watch it. I try to keep away from the papers but I still see some of them. When I hear about another death, you instantly think of the family. You know what they are going to be feeling when they open that door.

“The sooner the inquest is held the better. It is just one more thing to put behind us.

“Aaron never watched the news. To be honest, if he was home now, he would want to go back out there. He wanted to fight the fight. He was a soldier through and through.

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