THE name of a Portadown soldier killed in Afghanistan has been added to the town’s war memorial at a moving dedication ceremony.
Lieutenant Neal Turkington of the Royal Gurkha Rifles was 26 years old when he was shot by a renegade Afghan National Army soldier at a British command post in July 2010.
Hundreds of people, including representatives of his regiment, attended the service on Saturday morning.
Lt Turkington’s name is the first to be added to the town centre memorial since World War Two. His parents laid the first of four wreaths.
Following a welcome address from the Rev Terence Cadden of Seagoe Parish Church, the large congregation stood in silence while a bugler played the Last Post.
Neal’s father, Ivor Turkington, also gave an address in tribute to his son.
The service ended with the singing of the hymn I Vow To Thee My Country and the playing of the national anthem.
A family tribute in the order of service described the young officer as “honourable, loyal and an inspiration” to his family and friends.
“It was an honour to be parents, brother and sister of Neal,” it said.
“We were immensely proud to know that Neal achieved one of his early dreams when he commissioned as an officer into the distinguished Royal Gurkha Rifles.
“In Afghanistan Neal displayed immense courage, compassion and inspirational leadership when facing some of the fiercest fighting in Helmand Province.”
Two other soldiers from the same battalion, Major James Joshua Bowman from Wiltshire, and Corporal Arjun Purja Pun from Nepal, also died in the same incident near Helmand’s capital, Lashkar Gah.
Lt Turkington had a deep affection for the Gurkhas’ Nepal homeland and was heavily involved in humanitarian work in the region.
His family’s tribute went on to say: “Neal’s spirit will live on through his Nepal School Project, where impoverished children will get a better pathway to prosperity and dignity.
“We salute you — Mum, Dad, brother Gareth and sister Cathy, your wider devoted family and loyal friends — Rest in peace.”
Speaking to the News Letter, Mr Cadden said it was “a moving occasion” and a “very dignified and fitting tribute”.
“It was also a very important occasion in the life of the town — for the remembrance of Neal’s life and his sacrifice,” Mr Cadden added.
Upper Bann MLA Jo-Anne Dobson said she was “proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder” with the people of Portadown at the service, describing it as “a deeply moving and fitting tribute to the service and sacrifice of Lt Turkington and a powerful display of solidarity with the servicemen and women of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces”.
She added: “This is the first addition to this symbol of remembrance in Portadown since the end of the Second World War with Lt Turkington’s name proudly displayed alongside those who made the ultimate sacrifice in previous conflicts.”