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Respectful applause for two fallen heroes
FAMILY and friends have paid tribute to a Royal Marine and a medic who were repatriated to RAF Brize Norton yesterday.
Corporal David O’Connor, 27, from 40 Commando Royal Marines, and Corporal Channing Day, 25, from 3 Medical Regiment, were killed last Wednesday.
They were on their way to conduct training with Afghan Local Police in Helmand province when they came under small arms fire.
About 300 residents stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their friends and family at the repatriation memorial garden on the edge of Carterton yesterday.
As the cortege left the garden, covered in red and white roses and backed by the mournful toll of the memorial bell, a respectful applause broke out.
Mandy Leigh’s son, Marine Tom Leigh, served under Cpl O’Connor and was out on patrol with him and Cpl Day when the attack happened.
The 49-year-old, who attended the repatriation with her son Ben, 25, said: “For all I know, David saved Tom’s life.
“Tom is still out there and he asked that we attend to pay his respects today. David was a great friend of Tom’s and he said Channing was a really lovely girl.”
Sergeant Paul Wood, who was Cpl O’Connor’s troop sergeant in Afghanistan in 2009, said: “He was gregarious and always had a smile on his face. He was a great guy and it is important to be here for him.”
Terry Hall – mayor of Taunton Deane, where the Royal Marines are based – said: “There is a very strong bond between the people of Taunton Deane and the Royal Marines. They are part of our local family. We hoped this day would never occur again, but unfortunately it has.”
Sally Veck’s daughter, Private Eleanor Dlugosz , 19, was friends with Cpl Day before she was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007.
Holding a picture of the pair together, the 47-year-old said: “They were best friends and went through basic training together.
“Channing spent lots of time with us in Hampshire and came down to see us in Somerset. She was a very bubbly person, very active and cheeky, and was very caring.”
She added: “I do not want to be here today but I am glad I came. I am here representing Eleanor.”
Private Kevin Baines, who served with Cpl Day in Iraq and Germany, said: “She always had a smile on her face, even when things were bad. It is her smile I will never forget.”
In a statement, Cpl Day’s family said: “Channing was bubbly, sporty, beautiful and lived her life for the Army. She died doing what she lived for, in the life she loved.
“She will be remembered by all who knew her as a wonderful girl who never stopped smiling and who had an infectious laugh.”
Carterton mayor Adrian Coomber said: “Every week that goes by without a repatriation, we count our blessings. But inevitably we are going to be here again and we will be here next week.”
- Two soldiers from 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifle were shot and killed by a man wearing Afghan Police uniform in Helmand province yesterday. Their families have been informed but a date for their repatriation has not been set.