Liam Riley is a true Yorkshire hero. It is ten years, almost to the day, since he died in an incredible act of bravery trying to save the life of a fellow soldier who had stepped on an roadside incendiary device in Afghanistan.
He was, said his commanding officer, destined for great things, a born leader. He was just 21 years old. There is a statue of him in his hometown of Killamarsh in Sheffield and every year his family raise thousands for pounds for armed forces charities with a fun day in his memory.
But it is a treasured letter and a photograph of him stood beside another young soldier that tells us as much about the man who wrote it as the boy who sacrificed his life for his country.
Liam’s mother has quite rightly never shared the contents of that letter out of respect for the writer except to say the description of her beloved son as ‘a legend ‘ was beautiful and has brought her enormous comfort.
Years later she was able to thank the man who sent her that letter in person. This man hugged her as he told her of her son’s unforgettable smile, that in fact he never stopped smiling the whole time he knew him and then he shared her pain at losing someone he loved, his mother. Grief he said never ends, you just learn to live with it.
The fellow soldier who wrote to a family in their pain was Prince Harry.
Much has been said about the deal to leave the Royal family and with Harry now back with Meghan and Archie in Canada the reality of their new life will just be beginning to sink in over the next weeks and months.
What once seemed so exciting will have it’s moments of doubt and loneliness.
But I am sorry, as he so obviously is when he spoke about how he had hoped to still serve the Royal family, that his search for a “more peaceful life” has meant he has to give up all his duties, in particular his military connections.
Because he is a man who has been there, who understands, who can make a difference, as Liam Riley’s family can testify.
And we all need a purpose in life, whether or not that life is filled with the promise of riches or not.
Of course Harry and his wife will continue their charitable work. But it was clear to see it has been an emotional parting of the ways when he chose an event in support of Sentebale , an African AIDS charity founded in honour of his mother, to make his exit speech . It is not lost on me that Sentebale translates as Forget Me Not.
There are no winners in this sad situation not because this family are Royal, but because they are family.
Two weeks ago we once again said goodbye to our eldest daughter and our eldest granddaughter as they set off home to the other side of the world.
They have their own life in Sydney and they have made a good life for themselves there.
But as the tears flowed, and they always flow, we were reminded after weeks of making memories of the miles between us. And that is sad and always will be.
The Queen in her wisdom has announced the arrangements for this very public parting will be reviewed in the Spring of next year.
And that is both wise and kind.
I do believe Harry and his family will be back once the ice thaws and they have time to reflect that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, particularly the other side of the world. His wife can certainly testify to that.
But as I said in this column last week it is not my place to give advice or to criticise a young couple who simply want to do what so many have done, including my own, and that is to stand on their own two feet and make their own life.
But it won’t be easy and whether they like it or not that world will be watching and they can hardly be surprised if the paps are out in force. It was never going to be just a walk in the park But we should give them a chance.
I believe that this young man and his wife can make a difference while following a new and untried path halfway across the globe.
They have a lot to give. Ask Liam Riley’s family. They would agree when they tell you about a letter they received not from a Prince but from a man with a kind heart. Above all a man who has already served Queen and country. And will continue to do so. With or without a title.
Christa Ackroyd’s column will be moving the The Yorkshire Post on Saturdays. Her next column will appear on Saturday February 1.