Case studies: Bereaved families
Carol Jones, whose son was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra, celebrated the announcement of the Elizabeth Cross.
“I think it’s brilliant, it’s a fantastic idea,” said Mrs Jones, 63, from Hurley in Warwickshire, who signed a petition more than a year ago calling for such a posthumous tribute. “It is important for our soldiers to be recognised.”
Her son, Sergeant John Jones, 31, died when a bomb blew up in the path of the Snatch Land Rover he was travelling in close to Basra airport in southern Iraq on November 20, 2005. He was a month into his second tour of Iraq. Mrs Jones first heard the news of his death on television. No name was mentioned but she instinctively feared that it was her son — a suspicion that was later confirmed. “When a family is not complete, there is a part of you that dies inside. You cannot believe that your son is buried before you,” she said. “We have our down days and talk about it.”
Sergeant Jones, from 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, joined the Army at 16 and loved his job, volunteering for a second deployment to Iraq.
Mrs Jones, however, fears that her son’s life was wasted, noting the continuing violence in the country, with scores killed over the past week alone.
“I think my son died for nothing,” she said. He left a wife, Nicola, and a son, Jack, now aged 9. “Jack is doing all right,” said Mrs Jones. “He talks about his daddy and he can remember him.”
She hopes the Elizabeth Cross will be passed on to her grandson to show his children. "John is being recognised," she said. "It is like anything they do for the fallen. They are not forgotten, they are in people's minds all the time." Mrs Jones helps to run the Forces Family Support Group, which offers support and advice to the relatives of servicemen and women who have died and of those on deployment. She also campaigned successfully to bring a memorial wall erected at the main British base in southern Iraq back to Britain. "I am just pleased that our soldiers are being recognised," she added.
Case study: the dismissive father
Ian Wright says that the Elizabeth Cross is a nice gesture but has taken a long time coming — and will do nothing to quell the anger that he feels over his son’s death in Afghanistan. Gary Wright, 22, a Royal Marine, was killed in a suicide attack while travelling in a Snatch Land Rover three years ago.
“We were astonished at the lack of acknowledgment from the Royal Family,” said Mr Wright, 53, from Blanefield, Stirlingshire. His family received an unsigned card from the Duke of Edinburgh. “That was the total royal recognition for our son giving his life for his country.”
The Nato-led forces in Afghanistan posthumously awarded Marine Wright, of 45 Commando, a campaign medal, a certificate and a specially produced coin.
His father said that any other honour “should have been given at the time of death rather than retrospectively now. I am intrigued as to what the motives are behind it.
“They [the Government] would have known there would be losses of life so why they did not consider something like this in advance I don’t know.”
Mr Wright is suing the Ministry of Defence for negligence in allowing his son to operate on the front line in a Snatch Land Rover, which he feels lacked sufficient protective armour.
He said: “We appreciate this other medal but I do not know if it is necessary. I would rather have an inquiry into the Snatch.”
In a message to the Government, the bereaved father added: "I want you to own up to your responsibilities and admit that you got it wrong." A member of the elite Recce Troop, Marine Wright was a fit, adventurous young man who passed selection four years earlier - a moment of tremendous pride for him and his family. He had only been in Afghanistan for three weeks when the suicide bomber blew himself up next to his vehicle as he drove through Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, on October 19, 2006.
Mr Wright recalled the moment he learnt of his son's death. "It was a case of being in shock and disbelief initially," he said. "It started to become real after the first anniversary." The news hit the Marine's parents, sister Karen and girlfriend, Joanne hard. "We are continuing to suffer," said the father. One consolation is that his son died doing a job he loved. The headstone on his grave in Strathblane Cemetery reads: "Remembered with a smile."