Page last updated at 15:57 GMT, Sunday, 23 August 2009 16:57 UK

Hundreds join tribute to soldier

Phillip and Hazel Hunt lay red roses on the cenotaph
Phillip and Hazel Hunt lay red roses on the cenotaph at a memorial service to their son Richard in Abergavenny

Hundreds of people joined family and friends for a memorial service for the 200th UK soldier killed in the Afghanistan conflict.

A minute's silence was held at the cenotaph in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, at 1415 BST, which was the time Richard Hunt died a week last Saturday.

The Army joined the tribute on what would have been his 22nd birthday.

Pte Hunt died after his patrol from A Company the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh was hit by an explosive device.

Soldiers from 2nd and 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh were present at the memorial as the Last Post brought the centre of the market town to a standstill for a minute's silence.

His parents Hazel and Phillip hugged after adding a wreath to the flowers and birthday cards laid at the base of the war memorial.

They had asked for cards to be written as a tribute to Pte Hunt and that no-one wore black, with the occasion to be a celebration of his life.

They were joined by his brother Alun, sisters Jayne and Fi, and girlfriend Rhiannon Simmonds.

Pte Richard Hunt
Richard Hunt showed 'boundless enthusiasm,' said Army chiefs

In a card to her brother, Jayne wrote: "Happy Birthday Baby Bro. I got your card on time for once."

A copy of the video game Call of Duty: World at War was left among the tributes.

A hand-written message read: "Happy Birthday 'Hunty'. Play you again one day. Dad."

Jonathan "Chocky" Cholakian, 21, said learning of his friend's death last weekend was "the worst day of my life".

"He has always been my best mate. I'm absolutely devastated," he said.

Another friend, James Cunningham, 22, said: "About a week ago we came up with the idea for Richard's birthday.

Tributes were paid to Pte Richard Hunt, while James Cunningham explained the support family and friends had received

"We were trying to think of what to do and this seemed like a fitting tribute to have as many people come and celebrate his life as possible. The amount of people here is awesome."

He invited the gathered crowd to come and "celebrate Richard's life in style" at a local pub.

Pte Hunt has been praised by Lt Col Mark Wheeler, commanding officer 2 Royal Welsh, as someone who was quiet by nature, but "clearly had a passion for soldiering".

"He was enthusiastic and dedicated in all that he pursued and coupled with his natural ability, particularly his robust physical strength, a bright future lay ahead," said Lt Col Wheeler.

His company commander, Major Huw Jones said it had been "typical of him to volunteer to drive a Warrior when the need arose".

Maj Jones said: "Despite the danger he threw himself at the task with the boundless enthusiasm and selfless commitment which was his hallmark - he set an example for us all."

His parents, Hazel and Phillip Hunt, have described their son as "selfless to the end", with his bravado masking "a natural shyness".

Mrs Hunt has also criticised the treatment of troops in Afghanistan, and said politicians needed to listen to and understand their demands for more and better help and equipment.

Pte Hunt, who came from a farming family, was born in Pembrokeshire and grew up in Abergavenny.

He died in a Birmingham hospital on Saturday, 15 August, two days after his vehicle patrol had been hit by an explosion in Helmand province.

Tributes in Abergavenny
People leave flowers and tributes at the base of the cenotaph in Abergavenny



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