This is the heartbreaking moment two British soldiers were repatriated from Afghanistan after they were killed just six days before they were due to fly home.
Friends and family of Mark Burgan
Major Matthew Collins, 38, and Lance Sergeant Mark Burgan, 28, served together with 1st Battalion The Irish Guards.
They lost their lives on March 23 when the vehicle they were travelling in was caught in a blast from an improvised explosive device (IED).
Both Major Collins and L/Sgt Burgan, described as the ”epitome” of their regiment, were due to finish their tour of duty just six days before their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.
The two men had been returning to base from an operation aimed at disrupting insurgent groups in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province when the explosion occurred.
Today their bodies were flown back to a private ceremony at RAF Lyneham, Wilts., before being driven past more than three-hundred devastated mourners in Wootton Bassett.
Family and friends lined the streets of the town, dressed in darks suits, red ties and jackets and pinned yellow ribbons to their lapels at the request of L/Sgt Burgan’s family.
They also attached the word ‘Burgo’ and photographs of the tragic soldier to themselves, with ”A true gentleman who will never be forgotten Mark Burgan our Kirkby hero RIP” written underneath.
Crowds for both men hugged each other as they sobbed in the rain.
They broke out into loud applause and cheers as the Union Jack draped coffins stood in front of them, before surrounding the corteges, kissing them and tapping the glass.
Pink and red roses were thrown onto the car carrying Major Collins, while a Liverpool FC scarf and yellow roses were placed on the cortÃ¨ge of L/Sgt Burgan.
As the corteges moved on, one mourner shouted: ”Thank you Wootton Bassett, thank you.”
After his death, the family of father-of-two Major Collins, from Backwell, Somerset, paid tribute to him as ”caring” and said they would never forget him.
They said: ”Not only a soldier but a caring husband, devoted father to Freya and Charlie, caring son, wonderful brother and friend to many. We will all miss him and remember him always.”
Major Collins was deployed as the commander to a team advising the 3rd Kandak of the UK’s partnered Afghan Brigade.
The ”exceptional soldier” who ”led from the front” had previously served in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Iraq.
He leaves behind his wife Lucy, daughter Freya and son Charlie, his father Derek, mother Tricia and brothers Mark, Nick and Chris.
L/Sgt Burgan, from Liverpool, was the signals detachment commander for the advisory team.
His wife Leanne said she would ”always love” her brave husband.
She said: ”I am so honoured to be Mark’s wife. I will always love my hero.
”Mark was an extremely proud Irish Guardsman, dad, husband, brother and son.
”He will forever be in our hearts.”
He leaves behind his wife Leanne as well as his parents Terry and Rita and sisters Laura, Kate and Jayne.
His grieving father added: ”Mark was our beloved son.
”One in a million, proud isn’t a good enough word to show how we feel about him.”
He added that his son was a ”protective”, ”little soldier” as a child.
The bodies of Major Collins and L/Sgt Burgan were flown back to the UK today on a Hercules aircraft which landed at RAF Lyneham, Wilts.
A procession then made its way along the A3102, the road now dubbed the ‘Highway for Heroes’ following a private memorial service for his family at the base.
Wootton Bassett was brought to a silent standstill at 2.25pm as their coffins, draped in Union Jack flags, passed slowly through the town.
Crowds gathered from 1pm until the bells to mark the ceremony began and rang on for nearly 15 minutes.
Mourners stood for a five minute silence as his hearse stopped at the town’s war memorial where regimental banners were lowered.
Following the moving ceremony the vehicles continued up the High Street en route to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Ghika, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, said last week that their deaths had been a ”devastating blow” to the regiment.
He said: ”The loss of Major Matt Collins and Lance Sergeant Mark Burgan yesterday has been a devastating blow to the Irish Guards.
”It would be hard to meet two more committed and professional soldiers – they epitomised what it meant to be a member of this family regiment.”
Their deaths took the total number of UK military personnel to have died in Afghanistan since operations began in 2001 to 362.
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