First new civilian medal presented posthumously to Norfolk suicide bomb victim Nic Crouch
The first of a new set of civilian medals has been presented posthumously to a Norfolk man who died in a suicude bomb blast.
But the small piece of metal carries a huge message of hope and comfort for the family of Nic Crouch.
The Civilian Service Medal recalls his service as a private security worker in the Middle East - and sees the fulfilment of a wish he penned in a poignant letter to his parents in north Norfolk in case he was killed.
After Mr Crouch died, aged just 29, in a suicide car bomb blast in Iraq in July 2010, his family received a letter saying: 'If I should be killed in Afghanistan/Iraq and the media is interested, I should like them to know how I and all the other former soldiers contributed to the Great Game.
'I seek no personal glory, but many good Paras and ex-Servicemen have died supporting these operations with little or no recognition of their bravery.'
Now after an 18-month battle by his parents, who have moved from Trimingham to Sheringham since Nic's death, Mr Crouch has been awarded the first of the newly-created Civilian Service (Afghanistan) Medals.
His father Clive Crouch said: 'I am pleased we have managed to get a tick in the box for one of Nic's requests. The medal is not just for him, but for all his colleagues, particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice.'
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With more and more civilian workers doing support duties for shrinking armed forces it was all the more important to get recognition for their service, which was a far cry from the mercenary 'dogs of war' that some people associated with overseas security duties.
After an initial 'luke warm ' response to their plea to the authorities for recognition, the family tried again, helped by MP Norman Lamb.
Nic's mum Barbara wrote an 'acerbic letter' to the government, which prompted hand-written replies from a Foreign Office minister and the prime minister.
Mr Lamb said he was impressed by the family's 'steadfast and forceful ' bid to get recognition for their son and his colleagues, and by the 'human response' of the government.
What Nic did was 'duty in a tough environment' and the MP was pleased the posthumous medal was presented at the Foreign Office this week by Alistair Burt, the foreign secretary for Middle Eastern affairs.
'Bereavement is incredibly difficult particularly when a young man is involved, and when you feel there has not been proper recognition of what your child has done. It hurts profoundly,' said Mr Lamb, who hoped the award would help the family move on.
A Foreign Office spokesman said the Queen approved the introduction of the new medal last June, which would be awarded to UK civilians who, like Mr Crouch, had 'served in direct support of Her Majesty's Government's objectives in Afghanistan since 2001.
'It recognises their dedicated work in this challenging, often dangerous environment. Their important work is integral to the achievement of a stable and secure Afghanistan,' he added, confirming Mr Crouch was the first recipient.
Nic Crouch graduated at Sandhurst in 2000 and served with the Paras including a tour in Northern Ireland until December 2005, before switching to similar close protection duties in 'civvy street'. He initially worked in Afghanistan protecting British Embassy staff in Kabul and Department of Foreign and International Development staff in Helmand province, as well as safeguarding visiting politicians such as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
He moved to Iraq in January 2009 and was protecting American troops building a hospital in the city of Mosul when his convoy came under attack on July 19 2010. A suicide bomb in a passing car killed Mr Crouch instantly, and wounded three of his colleagues and five Iraqi civilians. At the time he was the 30th worker for private security firm Aegis to be killed in action in Iraq since 2004.
His letter to the family in case of his death, as well as pleading for the civilians' unsung work to be recognised, also said: 'If you're reading this I bought it. I pray you are comforted and understand that we all die some day and however premature my death I lived a full and passionate life.'
Trimingham church was packed for Mr Crouch's funeral in August 2010 with mourners, including uniformed soldiers, paying their final respects.
An inquest last year heard his vehicle was not the prime target of the bomber. Afterwards his father said Nic had just been 'in the wrong place at the wrong time'.