“We have lost a son and brother but heaven has gained a hero.”
Those are the poignant words on the headstone of teenage Meltham soldier Tom Wroe, killed on active service in Afghanistan.
Tom, 18, was gunned down by a rogue Afghan policeman at a checkpoint in Helmand Province on September 15, 2012.
To mark the second anniversary of his death, Tom’s dad Mick, mum Claire and sister Demi made a special visit to his graveside at Helme churchyard.
It was only in April that the inscribed military headstone was put in place, and it is somewhere the family visit regularly.
“It’s a comfort to be there, said Mick who, like his son, was a soldier with the Yorkshire Regiment.
“In many ways it seems like only yesterday that we got the knock on the door but then it can feel like a lifetime.
“It does get easier but we don’t love and miss Tom any less.”
The sudden loss of their son forced Mick, 49, and Claire, 40, to confront their own mortality.
“It’s not a nice thing to think about but we are going to be buried with Tom,” said Mick. “You have to plan because you never know what is round the corner. We never expected to be burying our son but we will be together forever.”
Mick has also had a tattoo of his favourite photograph of Tom inked on his left calf. The artwork took four hours straight to complete and Mick is proud to show it.
It’s photographic quality and instantly recognisable.
“It’s a great tattoo – a bit painful – but a nice tribute to our Tom,” said Mick. “He’s with me all the time now.”
Much of the first 12 months after Tom’s death passed by in a blur. From the 5.30am knock on the door, to the repatriation of his body to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire to the funeral in Meltham with full military honours.
“Everything went at 100mph,” said Mick. “But what I remember vividly is we all saw Tom in his open coffin, dressed in his best uniform, proudly wearing his Afghan ribbon, white gloves and shiny black shoes. He looked like he was sleeping.”
The people of Meltham and the wider Huddersfield community shared the family’s grief and sense of loss and Mick said they were still amazed and overwhelmed by the public support.
Click below to watch a video of a memorial service held for Pte Wroe
“As a family we just want to thank everyone so much,” said Mick. “The support we have had from family, friends and the people of Meltham has been fantastic. They have been a continual support for us.
“After Tom died even people we didn’t know were bringing flowers and cards. One guy turned up with a plaque. He had made them for all the fallen soldiers.”
Claire said: “Thomas always did me proud and still does. I love him and miss him more each day and he is always with me in my heart and thoughts.
“I was the proudest mum ever when he wanted to follow his dream and be by his friends’ side in Afghanistan, even though I didn’t want him to be there.
“I was so proud of you as a son and that helped me get through while you were on tour. There is a massive hole in my heart and you will always be there and in my thoughts”.