Soldier’s widow given first Elizabeth Cross

Author: By Amy Murphy, Press Association

Karen Upton received the medal during a dignified ceremony before the funeral
of her husband, Warrant Officer Sean Upton, 35, at Catterick Garrison in
North Yorkshire.

WO Upton, originally from Nottingham, died in an explosion as he was on foot
patrol in the Sangin district of Helmand province last month.

He had been in the Army for 19 years and had served in Northern Ireland, Iraq,
Afghanistan, Cyprus and Bosnia.

Today, the soldier’s wife, two children, Ewan and Hollie, and other family
members gathered in a marquee next to the Garrison Memorial Church for the
presentation ceremony.

Mrs Upton, 32, was introduced to senior Army officials and other dignitaries
before becoming the first soldier’s widow to be presented with the Elizabeth
Cross.

Pinning the medal to Mrs Upton’s black and mauve satin dress, Lord Crathorne,
Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, said: “It is a very special moment. It
is the first time that the Elizabeth Cross has been awarded to the widow of
a soldier killed in action.

“It is a very sad occasion, obviously, but this will be something, Karen, that
you and your family will have forever.”

Reading a citation about the award, Lord Crathorne continued: “We, as a
nation, owe much to servicemen like WO Upton, who gave his life fighting for
our security and freedom but we all also owe great debt to his family.

“The presentation of this first Elizabeth Cross, in the name of Her Majesty
the Queen, is a lasting symbol of the entire nation’s gratitude and respect.”

Lord Crathorne then presented Mrs Upton with a memorial scroll signed by the
Queen and bearing her husband’s name and she posed for photographs with
Ewan, 10, and Hollie, seven.

Speaking about receiving the medal, Mrs Upton, 32, said: “It is an absolute
honour to receive the very first Elizabeth Cross in Her Majesty’s name and
comforting to feel the support of Queen and country.

“Sean and I grew up together, were childhood sweethearts and soul mates.

“He was a loving husband and devoted father.

“Wherever our children and I go, my husband will always be with us.

“Sean was an outstanding soldier, loved his job and was part of the Army
‘family’.

“I will wear this Elizabeth Cross in his honour with pride and treasure it
always.”

Following the ceremony, the family joined hundreds of other mourners in the
church for WO Upton’s funeral service.

The service was led by Reverend John McGregor, padre of the 5th Regiment Royal
Artillery, who read out a moving poem written by WO Upton’s children.

The poem read: “My dad Sean, he was a hero. He was just like Rambo. He was the
best. He beat the rest. But now he is gone. Where is he? Our dad, he’s in
our chest, we love you dad, we will never forget. You’re the hero, you’re
the best.”

The song Hero by Enrique Iglesias, which was chosen by Ewan for his father,
was then played to the packed church.

A number of colleagues and family members paid emotional tributes to the
soldier and messages were read from his father Jack and Mrs Upton’s mother,
Sue, who described him as “the best son-in-law”.

Her tribute read: “My heart is broken but you will live on through your
children. I’m so glad you came into my world.”

WO Upton’s two brothers struggled to contain their emotion as they remembered
their lives with him.

They said: “Sean, you are an amazing person, father, husband, brother and son.
You will always live on through your two beautiful children. We will always
be there to offer them our love, guidance and support.

“We are so proud of you and what you have achieved in your short life. You
will always be in our hearts.”

WO Upton’s colleagues carried the coffin out of the church, led by a bagpiper,
and placed it outside as dozens of ex-servicemen carrying standards
performed a ceremonial dip.

Mrs Upton linked arms with Rev McGregor and broke down in tears as a firing
party fired three volleys over the coffin outside before two buglers played
the Last Post and a silence was observed.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth announced the establishment of the Elizabeth
Cross in July.

It is to be awarded to the next of kin of armed forces personnel killed on
active service, or as a result of terrorism, in a mark of national
recognition of their loss.

It will also be available to the families of those who died in conflicts
dating back to 1948.

This is the first time the name of a reigning monarch has been given to a new
award since the George Cross was instituted in 1940.

At the time of the announcement of the Elizabeth Cross, the Queen said: “This
seems to me a right and proper way of showing our enduring debt to those who
are killed while actively protecting what is most dear to us all.

“The solemn dignity which we attach to the names of those who have fallen is
deeply engrained in our national character.

“As a people, we accord this ultimate sacrifice the highest honour and
respect.”

WO Upton, of 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, was one of 22 British soldiers who
died in Afghanistan in July – the bloodiest month for British forces since
the mission began in October 2001.

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