STEPHEN McKee was “a great soldier and a leader of men” according to one of his closest friends.
Glenn Barr said he was shocked and utterly devastated to hear of Stephen’s death last week.
“Stephen was like a brother to me in that we shared many conversations and laughs together,” said Mr Barr. “Only recently I spoke to him online and he told me he was looking forward to getting home to his wife and coming home to Banbridge for a holiday.”
Mr Barr said he had known Stephen since his childhood days and the Lance Corporal had even been usher at his wedding. He said the Banbridge soldier was well-known right across the district through his involvement in sport, the Loyal Orders and the Downshire Guiding Star Band.
“He was what you call a true Ulsterman, a great soldier and a leader of men who always led from the front,” said the Knockiveagh Ulster Unionist candidate. “Stephen was proud to serve in one of the best Regiments the army has to offer in the Royal Irish Regiment and he took to soldiering like a duck to water.
“I have recently started a campaign to give the Royal Irish Regiment the freedom of Banbridge District. After these tragic events I am more determined to see this through. I will be speaking with the McKee family in due course and I’m sure we will have enormous support for this campaign.
“Stephen was a hero in life and a bigger hero in death. He will never be forgotten by the people of Banbridge and that is something I can make sure of.”