THE Archbishop of York has hosted a special service of remembrance for families of soldiers from Yorkshire killed in action or seriously injured in Afghanistan, after the region suffered its bloodiest month during the conflict over the past 10 years.
Dr John Sentamu paid tribute to the bravery of servicemen and women during the service, which was held in the chapel at Bishopthorpe Palace, and was attended by over 50 relatives of wounded and fallen soldiers.
“We should not forget our brave servicemen and women, who put their lives on the line on a daily basis,” he said.
“We have the best and bravest troops in the world and it is important that they know how highly they are thought of by this nation.”
Among those attending the service, were Jill and Phil Hatton from Haxby, near York, parents of Lance Bombardier Matthew Hatton, who was killed in action on August 13, 2009 when he was caught in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast while on foot patrol in the Sangin area of Helmand province.
Mrs Hatton said: “Phil and I have been to a number of these memorial events and feel that this is an important part of the grieving process.
“We have been to some large services but a small event like this is easier to deal with and more personable.
“Many of the families in the chapel have shared the same grief we have.”
Also attending the service was Christine Reeson-Walden whose 20-year-old son, Corporal James Wilkinson, a former pupil at Woldgate School in Pocklington, was seriously injured by a blast from an IED in June this year.
Cpl Wilkinson is currently being treated at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre Headley Court in Surrey.
“It has been emotional to be with other parents and it was nice to light a candle in memory of those who lost their lives and say a prayer for all those in hospital at the moment,” said Mrs Reeson-Walden, who lives in Grimsby.
The head of the Army in Yorkshire and the North East, Brigadier Greville Bibby, read from the Bible during the service and joined the Archbishop and the families at a reception afterwards.
“It is so important for those of us in the Armed Forces to feel supported and valued by the communities in which we live,” he said.
“When you consider the trauma suffered by those families who have lost a loved one or their nearest and dearest has suffered serious injuries, then that support is even more important. What this service has brought home to me is that it is very easy to show that support and that love at the time of the death or injury, however, the families live with the consequences forever.
“The Archbishop, by holding this service and reception is demonstrating that hand of friendship and love that these courageous families so value.
“I have spoken to lots of them today and they are so appreciative of being recognised in this way.”
Yorkshire lost three soldiers in November, Private Matthew Haseldin, 21, of Settle, Private Matthew Thornton, 28, of Barnsley, and most recently 20-year-old Rifleman Sheldon Steel, of Bramley, Leeds.
Lance Corporal Peter Eustace, 25, who was serving with 1st Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, was also killed during the month.
Pte Thornton, a Territorial Army soldier described as a “true Yorkshire warrior” from 4th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment, was killed in a blast from an IED 48 hours before Remembrance Day.
Rifleman Steel, 20, from 5th Battalion The Rifles, was killed by an explosion in Helmand province while on foot patrol on November 27. This week his funeral took place at St Peter’s Church in Bramley.
There were seven British Army deaths in November, making it the joint worst month for fatalities since July 2010 when 15 soldiers were killed, including two from Yorkshire.
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