We’d like to track down a particular airline pilot, who helped the grieving parents of a murdered British soldier in their darkest hour.
We would be grateful for any assistance in finding him (the soldier’s mum thinks it was a man) so that we can put them in touch. Please pass on via retweets etc.
We know next to nothing about the pilot, except for what is contained in this story:
IT WOULD NOT be an exaggeration to say that Ranger Aaron McCormick of The Royal Irish Regiment was among the bravest of the brave.
At just twenty-two years old, he was a ‘Vallon man’ in the British Army in Afghanistan.
The ‘Vallon’ is a hand-held IED finder, which looks like a metal detector.
‘IEDs’ are improvised explosive devices, homemade bombs which the Taliban used to kill British, US, Afghan and other soldiers in Afghanistan.
They were usually dug into holes alongside roads and tracks, and detonated as soldiers walked or drove past.
The Vallon was designed to locate these bombs under the surface of the ground before they went off.
Using the Vallon was an extremely dangerous job.
Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t.
If it didn’t, you could be on the wrong end of something very nasty indeed.
Those of us who have never experienced such a thing can probably barely imagine it.
When an IED detonates, it produces a devastating and superheated shock wave which blasts over you at several times the speed of sound, with a pressure of several hundred tonnes per square inch and a temperature of perhaps 2,000°C.
It takes with it loose stones, dust, bits of rifle and body armour, in a haze of semi-molten shrapnel which rips off arms, legs, and heads.
The whole thing is accompanied by a giant bang. The air is filled with rubble falling back to earth and then a choking cloud of dust.
It is massively, bewilderingly disorientating.
Aaron – whose story is told in our forthcoming book AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN – had a keen eye and a good nose for these IEDs, and he had located a very large number of them on his two tours of Afghanistan.
In doing so, he had saved dozens of his mates from death or serious injury, and literally embodied his regimental motto, Faugh a Ballagh – Clear the Way.
In fact, he was so good at it that his young mates nicknamed him ‘The Jedi’ (he was a keen Stars Wars fan) and thought of him as their guardian angel.
With Aaron at the front as they patrolled, they felt safe.
Aaron McCormick and a fellow soldier on the streets of Afghanistan
On Remembrance Sunday 2010, Aaron was called out from his base near Nad-e Ali to examine a device that he had spotted the day before.
Locals had marked it with stones – when the Taliban were not watching, they were keen to help the British soldiers (IEDs killed their children and animals far more often than the intended targets).
As he crouched over the bomb, another one exploded somewhere not far away.
His friends later said the startled young soldier shouted ‘Holy fuck!’ in shock, before dissolving into relieved giggles.
He was still laughing as he shifted position and somehow detonated the IED next to him.
His friends – who were guarding him in all-round defence – were blown off their feet by the force of the explosion.
Aaron was killed outright.
He was the third child of four born to Maggie McCormick and her husband Lesley.
Aaron and his mum, Maggie
Maggie and Lesley were in Tunisia, trying to enjoy a holiday which had been booked long before they knew Aaron’s tour dates.
They came back to the hotel that day to find fifty missed calls on their phones from their other children back home in Northern Ireland.
They knew straight away that Aaron must have been killed.
From then, it was a question of getting back to County Londonderry as quickly as possible.
A British Embassy worker called Julia Smyth did manage to get the distraught couple booked onto a flight later that day, and organised a taxi to take them to Monastir airport.
(Julia and a colleague believe it may have been Flight 601, Monastir to Stansted, at 20:14hrs on November 14, 2010.)
Whichever flight it was, it left the McCormicks needing to catch a further flight to Belfast the following morning, and thus they had to stay overnight at Stansted.
According to Maggie McCormick, ‘We found out [later] that the captain of the plane had radioed ahead and booked us a room at the Radisson Stansted, which was incredibly kind. The pilot even paid for that hotel room himself. Afterwards, I wanted to meet and thank him, but I don’t even know his name. I couldn’t get over that kindness.’
Mrs McCormick would like the opportunity to thank that pilot - as above, please pass this on via retweets etc, and if you know who the pilot was please contact us so that we can put them in touch.
CORPORAL MARK WRIGHT GC, RIP
CAPTAIN JAMES PHILIPPSON, RIP
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