Page last updated at 10:21 GMT, Friday, 10 July 2009 11:21 UK

'My son died for worthy campaign'

By Peter Jackson
BBC News

L/Cpl David Dennis (left) at home with his father Roger
Roger Dennis: "My son made the ultimate sacrifice"

As two more UK soldiers are killed in Afghanistan, taking the tally to 178 since 2001, we speak to one devastated family who, despite their son's death on Saturday, insist it is a cause worth fighting for.

The warmth behind this family snap shines through as a father and son share a joke, but their smiles offer no hint of the tragedy that lay ahead.

What neither knew was that this was the last time they would be photographed together and the last time they would ever see each other again.

A little over three months after the photo was taken, the man on the left - Lance Corporal David Dennis - was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

On Friday his devastated father Roger, a Welsh steelworker, will visit RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire to witness his son's repatriation from Helmand province.

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The soldier, who served with the Light Dragoons, was killed on Saturday aged 29 - three weeks before he was due to return home from his tour of duty.

The family's pain is still raw. Mr Dennis, 59, says his son was "wonderful... everything a father could ask for in a son" and that his life would "never be the same".

L/Cpl David Dennis with his father Roger
Roger Dennis says his son loved the Army which was like a second family

And although he would give anything to have him back, like his son, he fully backs Britain's military campaign in Afghanistan.

"He went out there and believed he was doing the right thing for his country, and me too," says Mr Dennis.

"The thing is, it's got to be winnable, otherwise they'll [the insurgents] work their way along to Pakistan and India - it's got to be stopped somewhere.

"All I know is my boy went out there to do a job and make the world a better place. He made the ultimate sacrifice... I don't want to think he wasted his life for nothing.

"Nobody wants to see their son die," he says.

But he adds that you accept that "you are there to keep the general peace, whatever the government decides. He swore an oath."

His stepmother Helen Dennis, 46, also believes it is a campaign worth fighting for.

She said: "We sometimes found ourselves discussing issues about the war with David. But you will never hear us say bring the troops home.

He wouldn't back down from anything and even when he was ill he'd go running. He had the word 'perseverance' tattooed right across his chest.
Roger Dennis

"He was a modern soldier who loved the Army and was fully committed to the cause he was fighting for."

L/Cpl "Duke" Dennis, from Llanelli, died when an explosive was detonated as he was helping bring back casualties from an earlier incident. Three other British soldiers have died since Saturday alone.

He was engaged to be married next March to teacher Lisa and had talked about one day having children. He also leaves behind his mother Adele, identical twin Gareth and stepbrother Matthew, 14.

L/Cpl Dennis had trained in the Parachute Regiment, but injured his shoulder, and joined the Royal Artillery as a gunner in 2003.

'Added spice'

Later, he did a six-month attachment with the Light Dragoons before transferring permanently in 2006.

He had seen action in Iraq, which he volunteered for, and had served in Afghanistan once before.

His father says: "He was a very tough sort of person. His upper body strength was amazing. The Army really made him as a person. It made him a man, who was full of confidence.

L/Cpl David Dennis
L/Cpl Dennis had wanted to join the Army since he was 14 years old

"He wouldn't back down from anything and even when he was ill he'd go running. He had the word 'perseverance" tattooed right across his chest.

He recalls how his son was always joking and laughing.

Helen Dennis adds: "What you saw was what you got, there were no airs and graces. He was very funny, loving and larger than life. He added spice.

"He also had an appalling dress sense. He'd wear cowboy boots, winkle pickers and Hawaiian shirts to shock.

"He'd go into a pub in England in a Wales rugby shirt then a Llanelli pub in an England shirt."

The snapshot of father and son showing the pair laughing was taken in Norwich, where the family had hired a cottage to spend the weekend together before David headed off to the war zone.

It is an image that will remain with them forever.

Helen Dennis said: "At the time my husband hated this photo as he said it made him look old and jowly. Now it's the most precious photo we have."



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