His brother paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan but yesterday Christopher Kirkness passed out from his army training and said he wanted to make his brother proud.
Yesterday their mother Maggie Kirkness, proudly hugged Christopher as he graduated and when she was asked if she had mixed emotions about the day she simply said her job was to support her son because its “what mums do”.
Christopher’s brother, Lance Corporal David Kirkness, a father-of-one, of 3rd Battalion The Rifles, was killed almost two years ago trying to protect Afghan citizens from a suicide bomber at a marketplace in Helmand.
The 24-year-old, from Morley, Leeds, was killed alongside another soldier, 18-year-old Rifleman James Brown, from Kent, while on a security patrol. The actions of the pair may have saved the lives of dozens of innocent people.
His daughter Brooke was just three when her father died on the frontline.
Yesterday his brother, Christopher Kirkness, joined more than 400 soldiers on the parade ground at Uniacke Barracks in front of thousands of their relatives and friends as they graduated from the Army Foundation College in Harrogate and then headed home for Christmas.
Following the emotional parade yesterday, Christopher said that he had always seen the Army as a likely career path for himself.
“I always wanted to be a soldier, ever since I was a little boy. We used to play with toy soldiers from when we were young,” he said.
“I do have a desire to make my brother proud.
“It was cold on the parade ground but it was a very proud moment, not just for me but for everybody.
“If my brother had been here today he would have probably laughed or made a sarcastic comment, like brothers do.
“He was always a joker, my brother, but when he joined the Army all his mates told me how seriously he took it all. They all said he was incredibly professional. Hopefully I can be as good as him.”
Mrs Kirkness, who was in Harrogate yesterday, said of Christopher: “I just want to grab him and hold him. I love him to bits.
“He did incredibly well in this weather. It will have been hard for him just to finish. The education he has had in the Army has just been brilliant. I’m so proud.
“I kept thinking how much he looks like David. It’s two days until his anniversary.”
When asked if she was scared or had any trepidations about her son following his brother into the army, Mrs Kirkness said: “It is what he wants, my job is just to be there to support him, that is what mums do.”
The parade of 17-year-old students, who joined the college in Penny Pot Lane in January last year, was the college’s final winter intake to pass out.
Major General Richard Nugee, Director General Personnel, inspected the students from all over the UK and took the salute when they graduated from the college watched by the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Khashi Sharifi and members of his staff.
Alamein and Burma Companies marched onto the parade square, led by the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band. Following the inspection and salute, prizes were awarded to the best students.
The junior soldiers, who have undergone a 12-month course in a combination of military skills and vocational qualifications, will now move on to receive phase two training in their chosen trade or specialism.
They have had the opportunity to achieve a City and Guilds apprenticeship for Information Technology users at Level 2. Many have also achieved the silver Duke of Edinburgh award.
Junior soldiers work on their leadership and team skills as part of the college’s personal and team development package. They undertake a number of adventurous training activities, as well as physical and mental challenges, culminating in a 30-hour challenge patrol across the Yorkshire Dales. The students are also given the opportunity to sample a wide variety of sports promoting fitness and agility.
The college opened in 1998 and provides training for 1,344 soldiers destined for all the Army’s many career paths.