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He's brought me joy, tears, pride, but above all laughter. And he always will; Emotional farewell to young soldier.

Byline: Gareth Llewellyn

MONMOUTH came to a standstill yesterday to pay respects to a young soldier killed in action in Afghanistan.

Several hundred people lined the length of Monnow Street in tribute to Rifleman Jamie Gunn as his coffin was brought to church for a funeral with full military honours.

The 22-year-old from the 1st Battalion, The Rifles, died when the vehicle he was travelling in was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Helmand Province on February 25.

Corporal Tom Gaden and Lance Corporal Paul Upton also died in the incident on the highway east of Gereshk.

The family of Rifleman Gunn paid an emotional tribute to him during the service at St Mary's Parish Church.

His mother Janet said: "He was so proud of his family and we are so proud of him.

My life has never been the same since Jamie was born. He's brought me joy, tears, pride, but above all laughter.

And he always will.

"As I've said before, I can picture him sitting with me in the garden. 'I just want to shine, Ma,' he said.

"Well, you've done that, boy."

Mrs Gunn said her son was determined and overcame a series of setbacks and injuries to complete his Army training.

"And from a young man he was determined to join the forces having changed his mind on his earlier career choices of spy or wrestler.

"He was fatalistic. When I said the usual 'mum' things about the danger of the role of a soldier, he would shrug and say 'it comes with the job, Ma'.

"He was accident-prone. If there was something to break, be it panes of glass, toilets, collarbones or jaws, he would do so. One of his friends said 'I can't believe they let him have a gun'.

"He was a true gentleman - good with old ladies, especially his gran. I remember him telling me about sitting in the pub listening to an old soldier's tales and he was very respectful of that man's thoughts."

Amid the sorrow, there was much humour in Mrs Gunn's tribute to her son, particularly when she recalled the time he cut down her apple tree after mistaking it for a dead shrub.

"I was so angry with him and he just fell about laughing. He wasn't always appropriate with his humour. There would have been much that he would have laughed at today.

But I could never stay angry with him for long."

His father, Mervyn, said the death has "left a chasm in our hearts never to be filled".

He said: "The moment you were born, you looked around unaided. As I sang happy birthday to you, the nurses cried.

You changed our world arriving and now you've changed it departing. Your dad is so, so proud of you, my son. I love you.

Rest now, my baby boy, rest."

Rifleman Gunn's sister Jessica said she was different to her brother in many ways but they shared a strong bond.

"You made me so proud, becoming such a brilliant soldier in such a small time," she said. She added that soldiers serving their country deserve enormous respect for enduring difficult conditions "so that we don't have to".

She finished by saying: "I will see you on the other side."

Mourners sang I Vow To Thee, My Country and Abide With Me during the service conducted by Padre Joe Rooney.

Fellow soldiers also paid tribute to Rifleman Gunn, affectionately known as "Gumf" to his friends, describing how he would "light up a room with his presence".

Major Chris Willis, officer commanding the rear party for1Rifles, revealed he was earmarked as a candidate for non-commissioned officer training after his superiors noticed his ability. "He was a quiet lad who soon came out of his shell, very readily exhibiting great professionalism and team spirit and capability, crowned with a great sense of humour," he said.

He added: "He was a strong young man, physically and mentally. He was such a vital part of the team; a small tightly knit team and his loss was hugely felt. If anything, the resolve of his colleagues will be all the greater to see the job through that they began alongside Jamie."

The funeral was followed by a cremation at Forest of Dean Crematorium, with a firing party from the 1 Rifles and a bearer party made up of the soldier's rugby team-mates.

CAPTION(S):

TRIBUTES: Brigadier Ben Barry passes a cap and Union Flag to Jamie Gunn's mother, Janet. Left, Jamie's sister Jessica reads from the lectern at his funeral service in St Mary's, Monmouth. Inset: Rifleman Jamie Gunn MAIN PICTURE: Stephen Pond/PA
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 19, 2009
Words:776
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