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Family's tears for 'Welsh Warrior' killed in conflict; Heartfelt tributes from wife, parents and friends of Afghanistan victim.

Byline: Ben Glaze

THE grieving parents of a Welsh soldier killed in Afghanistan last night said their "hearts are empty" as their son became the 150th British serviceman to die in the country since 2001.

Lance Corporal Christopher Harkett, 22, from C Company of the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Welsh, was killed in an explosion while on foot patrol south of Musa Qala in Helmand Province on Saturday.

The soldier, who was a sniper and joined the Army when he was just 16, was killed after moving into a position to cover his comrades.

The Ministry of Defence said medics in his team gave him first aid, but he died at the scene.

Also last night the MOD said two more soldiers had been killed in an explosion in Afghanistan.

The two, from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, serving with 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards died in an explosion in southern Helmand.

Next of kin had been informed L/Cpl Harkett, who was married to Danielle, was the first soldier from The Royal Welsh to be killed during the unit's tour, which is due to last six months, and had been in Afghanistan for just a week.

In a statement, his parents Gerwyn and Alicia, and younger brother Kyle, said: "Chris was our beloved son. Although he has been taken from us at a young age, he lived life to the full. Our hearts are empty, but we find some peace in that he died bravely protecting people of a land that was far from his home."

The family, originally from Pontardawe, near Swansea, added: "He leaves behind a beautiful and loving wife andayounger brother who adored him.

"He will remain in our hearts and the memories of him will be with us forever. Goodnight our darling son, you will remain forever young."

Danielle described her husband as "the most special person" in her life.

She said: "I cannot begin to describe the pain and hurt I feel knowing I will not be with you again. I only have the memories of our short life together, but I'm grateful that I had the privilege and honour to be your wife.

"You will be in my heart for the rest of my life and I will never forget the time we had together.

"You are the most special person in my life Chris, and your death does not bring the end to that. I have adored you from the moment we met, and I will never love any man the way I love you."

Pontardawe councillor Linet Purcell said the village was in mourning.

"Chris has many family and friends still living in Pontardawe and the sense of shock and sorrow will be shared by the whole community," said Mr Purcell.

"As a mother of boys of a similar age, I send my heartfelt sympathy to Chris' parents."

Joey Callaghan, the best man at L/Cpl Harkett's wedding, said: "Chris was the kindest, funniest, most loving person I have ever met; he was always there for me when I needed him and when I was down he always brought me up. "I have not only lost my best friend - I have lost my brother. It feels like a part of me has gone as well."

L/Cpl Harkett was the third generation from his family to join the British Army.

His grandfather, who served in the 2nd Battalion the South Wales Borderers, earned a commendation in Malaya, while L/Cpl Harkett's father joined the Royal Regiment of Wales in 1984.

The MoD said he enjoyed "an excellent career over 26 years reaching Warrant Officer Class 1".

A statement said L/Cpl Harkett "has grown up with many of today's soldiers or their children; he was always at the centre of the fun and was always liked by those who met him.

"He was a keen and active boy gaining all sorts of awards for outdoor pursuits and playing football in a local league.

!It was natural for him to join his father's Regiment as soon as he could - which is what he did as a boy soldier in December 2002."

C Company's commanding officer Major Sid Welham said: "L/ Cpl Chris 'H' Harkett personified the spirit and character of The Royal Welsh.

"H was ever smiling and always motivated. At the heart of his platoon, he was essential to their high morale.

"Having grown up as a 'son' of the Battalion, he was known and liked by all, dealing out constant banter to all ranks. His resolve of character was clear."

Maj Welham said the Swansea City fan enjoyed banter with the Company's Cardiff City supporters.

"A highly-motivated soldier, he had been quick to volunteer to serve on the Battalion's first deployment to Afghanistan.

"H took immense pride in his consummate skill as one of the company's snipers, always reassuring his Platoon that he would cover their 'six' (backs). It was just such a situation that led to his passing, when he selflessly moved into a fire position to cover his mates' advance."

He added: "H Harkett: a huge character, professional soldier, Welsh to the core - a true Welsh Warrior."

L/Cpl Harkett trained at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate and later at Catterick Garrison before joining 2nd Battalion, The RoyalWelsh in March 2004 in Paderborn, Germany.

He trained as a medic, a gunner and a signaller before becoming a sniper. He was a veteran of two Iraq tours.

His father-in-law, Cpl Graham Day, paid tribute to him directly saying: "No words could ever truly symbolise the sentiments of loss and regret felt following your untimely demise.

"As a soldier I would follow you into any field of battle; as a person Iwould enter any situation to be by your side; as a father I trusted you impeccably with the heart, welfare and protection of my daughter.

These are the highest honours I could possibly bestow."

Defence Secretary John Hutton said: "It's clear L/Cpl Harkett was a dedicated and enthusiastic soldier from a family with a strong military tradition."

Meanwhile, it emerged last night that a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan killed four Nato troops, as bombings and clashes elsewhere in the country killed 14 other people, officials said.

Nato yesterday did not disclose the victims' nationalities.

Tributes to 'fine young man and soldier'

Tributes last night poured in from L/Cpl Harkett's friends and comrades in 2nd Battalion, The Royal Welsh.

Captain Alex Rabbitt, 9 Platoon Commander, said: "His final act summed him up as he showed bravery and selfless commitment by pushing across open ground in clear view of the enemy to give covering fire for his friends."

Company Sergeant Major and family friend Warrant Officer (Second Class) Mark Hughes said: "I have known Christopher for almost 19 years. As I was serving with his father Gerwyn, over the years I've watched him grow up to become a fine young man and soldier. Even as a young boy he was always polite and considerate to others and always had a smile on his face that let everyone know he was enjoying life."

Roll call of British deaths in Afghanistan

Private Darren George, Sergeant Robert Busuttil, Corporal John Gregory, Private Jonathan Kitulagoda, Lance Corporal Steven Sherwood, Corporal Mark Cridge, Lance Corporal Peter Craddock, Captain Jim Philippson, Captain David Patten, Sergeant Paul Bartlett, Corporal Peter Thorpe, Lance Corporal Jabron Hashmi, Private Damien Jackson, Captain Alex Eida, 2nd Lieutenant Ralph Johnson, Lance Corporal Ross Nicholls, Private Andrew Cutts, Private Leigh Reeves, Lance Corporal Sean Tansey, Corporal Bryan Budd, Lance Corporal Jonathan Hetherington, Ranger Anare Draiva, Lance Corporal Paul Muirhead, Flight Lieutenant Steven Johnson, Flight Lieutenant Leigh Mitchelmore, Flight Lieutenant Gareth Nicholas, Flight Lieutenant Allan Squires, Flight Lieutenant Steven Swarbrick, Flight Sergeant Gary Andrews, Flight Sergeant Stephen Beattie, Flight Sergeant Gerard Bell, Flight Sergeant Adrian Davies, Sergeant Benjamin Knight, Sergeant John Langton, Sergeant Gary Quilliam, Lance Corporal Oliver Dicketts, Joseph Windall, Private Craig O'Donnell, Corporal Mark Wright, Lance Corporal Luke McCulloch, Marine Gary Wright, Marine Jonathan Wigley, Marine Richard Watson, Lance Bombardier James Dwyer, Marine Thomas Curry, Lance Corporal Mathew Ford, Marine Jonathan Holland, Marine Scott Summers, Lance Bombardier Ross Clark, Lance Bombardier Liam McLaughlin, Marine Benjamin Reddy, Warrant Officer Class 2 Michael Smith, Private Chris Gray, Guardsman Simon Davison, Lance Corporal George Davey, Guardsman Daniel Probyn, Corporal Darren Bonner, Corporal Mike Gilyeat, Lance Corporal Paul Sandford, Guardsman Neil Downes, Drummer Thomas Wright, Captain Sean Dolan, Sergeant Dave Wilkinson, Guardsman Daryl Hickey, Lance Corporal Alex Hawkins, Guardsman David Atherton, Sergeant Barry Keen, Lance Corporal Michael Jones, Private Tony Rawson, Captain David Hicks, Private Aaron McClure, Private Robert Foster, Private John Thrumble, Senior Aircraftman Christopher Bridge, Private Damian Wright, Private Ben Ford, Sergeant Craig Brelsford, Private Johan Botha, Lance Corporal Ivano Violino, Colour Sergeant Phillip Newman, Private Brian Tunnicliffe, Major Alexis Roberts, Lance Corporal Jake Alderton, Captain John McDermid, Trooper Jack Sadler, Sergeant Lee Johnson, Corporal Darryl Gardiner, Corporal Damian Lawrence, Corporal Damian Mulvihill, Lieutenant John Thornton, Marine David Marsh, Senior Aircraftman Graham Livingstone, Senior Aircraftman Gary Thompson, Trooper Robert Pearson, Trooper Ratu Babakobau, Soldier James Thompson, Marine Dale Gostick, Private Nathan Cuthbertson, Private Daniel Gamble, Private Charles David Murray, Lance Corporal James Bateman, Private Jeff Doherty, Corporal Sarah Bryant, Corporal Sean Robert Reeve, Lance Corporal Richard Larkin, Paul Stout, Sergeant Major Michael Williams, Private Joe Whittaker, 20, Warrant Officer Dan Shirley, Lance Corporal James Johnson, Corporal Jason Barnes, Lance Corporal Kenneth Michael Rowe, Sergeant Jonathan Mathews, Private Peter Cowton, Signaller Wayne Bland, Corporal Barry Dempsey, Ranger Justin James Cupples, Warrant Officer Class 2 Gary O'Donnell, Private Jason Lee Rawstron, Lance Corporal Nicky Mason, Trooper James Munday, Yubraj Rai, Marine Robert McKibben, Marine Neil Dunstan, Colour Sergeant Krishnabahadur Dura, Marine Alexander Lucas, Marine Tony Evans, Marine Georgie Sparks, Lance Corporal Steven 'Jamie' Fellows, Sergeant John Manuel, Corporal Marc Birch, Marine Damian Davies, Lieutenant Aaron Lewis, Rifleman Stuart Nash, Corporal Robert Christopher Deering, Lance Corporal Ben Whatley, Corporal Liam Elms, Serjeant Christopher John Reed, Royal Marine Travis Mackin, Captain Tom Sawyer, Corporal Danny Winter, Acting Corporal Richard Robinson, Corporal Daniel Nield, Marine Darren Smith, Lance Corporal Stephen Kingscott, Acting Lance Corporal Paul Upton, Corporal Tom Gaden, Rifleman Jamie Gunn, Royal Marine Michael Laski, Lance Corporal Christopher Harkett.

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BRAVE: Christopher Harkett
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 16, 2009
Words:1710
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