Published Tuesday, 04 March 2014
He was speaking at the funeral of Trooper Mark McKeen, in Carrickfergus.
In a cruel twist, Mark McKeen had survived two tours of Afghanistan, but died in a road crash in England.
Had he died on the front line, his funeral would have been headline news. The fact that he died in an accident with a fellow soldier, barely rated any comment.
News is a funny thing, at times. So, why was I at this funeral, accompanied by UTV cameraman, John Vennard?
This time last year, we were on assignment in Afghanistan and spent some time with the Royal Dragoon Guards, a regiment with strong Irish connections.
One of its antecedent regiments was the Royal Inniskilling Dragoons, and it still recruits locally.
So, at Lashkar Gah, we were chatting with lads from Carrickfergus, Belfast, Newtownabbey and Athlone. It was a real "home from home" experience. These were front-line soldiers who were comfortable posing with the Irish Tricolour and the Ulster Flag. No divided loyalties here!
One of them was Trooper Mark McKeen. It was important to attend his funeral in Carrickfergus; to meet his family, and his "army" family.
I wanted to illustrate that interviewing him and his fellow soldiers was not just "another story."
Actually, in my career as a journalist, no report has ever been "just another story." Each one is unique.
The death of Mark McKeen would have been big news in Northern Ireland if he had died in Afghanistan. The fact that he died in a road accident, a few weeks shy of his 24th birthday is still a tragedy.
It may have passed unnoticed by the public at large, but it is no less distressing.
© UTV News