A FUNERAL director who is part of the team that this week brought home the six soldiers killed by a bomb in Afghanistan has been honoured with a campaign medal.
Graham Cook, from Hemel Hempstead, is part of a firm that brings servicemen and women killed on the frontline back to their families in the UK.
Private company Albin International Repatriation provides specialist services for the Ministry of Defence.
On Tuesday, the team was in charge of the repatriation of six fallen British soldiers to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. Their deaths were the single biggest loss of British life in Afghanistan since 2006.
At a ceremony in London, the little-known group of 14 civilians were presented with campaign medals earned for their multiple trips to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bennetts End father-of-one Graham said: “It was very humbling.
“I was extremely honoured, but that was tinged with a touch of sadness because the reason I have got this medal is because sadly there have been so many deaths in Afghanistan – you can’t forget that.”
The team travels at short notice and personally take care of the fallen from the front line to the moment when they are returned to their families.
Graham, 41, was involved in the repatriation of two of Hemel Hempstead’s own servicemen – Ryan Tomlin of the RAF, who died earlier this year, and Marine Matthew Harrison, who was killed in July 2010.
Head of military operations at the service personnel and veterans agency, Air Commodore Chris Bray OBE, presented Graham and his colleagues with the Operational Service Medal Afghanistan with Clasp Afghanistan for deployment to theatre between 2006 to the present day.
Three of the group also received the Iraq Medal recognising deployments to the country between 2003 and 2009.
Air Commodore Bray said: “Our armed forces undertake a very demanding and at times dangerous job around the world and it’s important they know that should the worst happen, a professional support system will be put in place to look after both them and their families. Today we recognise the vital element of that support provided by these dedicated individuals.”
Graham worked his way up the career ladder in the funeral business, starting out fitting and lining coffins after leaving school aged 16. He joined Albin in 2004 and is now a manager with the firm.