Irish News

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Irish soldier killed in bomb blast told of Afghan fears

Eimear Ni Bhraonain and Joe McCabe

Published 06/09/2008|00:00

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AN Irish soldier killed in Afghanistan with the British Army had expressed his apprehension about his tour of duty in October of last year.

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Justin Cupples (29), who has family roots in Virginia, Co Cavan, was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan on Thursday.

The young man, who served in the first battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, was killed in a an explosion while on foot patrol near Sangin district centre in southern Afghanistan.

The British Ministry of Defence said Ranger Cupples was left unconscious following the blast and was given first aid at the scene but died 15 minutes later.

A spokesman described Mr Cupples as "tough, committed and dedicated".

The ranger was born in the US and served with the US Navy during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His family moved to Miami from Co Cavan.

It's understood Mr Cupples lived in Cavan from 2003-2005 before joining the British Army and moving to Yorkshire with his Lithuanian wife Vilma.

In October of last year, 'Cups', as he was known to his friends, admitted he was apprehensive about his forthcoming tour of duty.

Anxious

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't apprehensive at some level but I'm anxious to go at the same time. It was one of the things I regretted after September 11, not being able to go in there and do the job that needed to be done and obviously still needs doing."

In 2003, another Irish soldier serving with the British forces died in Iraq. Lance Corporal Ian Malone (28) from Dublin, a member of the first battalion of the Irish Guards, was killed during the assault on Basra.

Before Mr Cupples joined the British Army, he worked in the Pauwels Trafo transformers manufacturing factory in Cavan town for two years.

Noel Finn, one of his former co-workers, told the Irish Independent: "He was a grand quiet lad. He often talked about how he'd been in the US navy. He was interested in the military.

"It just goes to show you how small the world is, you don't expect to know a soldier killed in Afghanistan."

Yesterday, Virginia parish priest Father John Cusack said Mr Cupples's parents, Don and Kathleen, were travelling to Co Cavan from the US to make funeral arrangements for their son. It's understood his mother Kathleen, nee Donoghue, is originally from Co Cavan.

Mr Cupples has been described as a capable and dedicated soldier.

He had completed an Operational Language Training Course and used his language skills on all patrols. His platoon was often able to deploy without an interpreter as Mr Cupples was more than capable of communicating with the locals.

Lieutenant Colonel Ed Freely, Commanding Officer of the Royal Irish first battalion described the death as a "great loss".

"Justin Cupples was a character. He stood out as such. He was from Cavan, but I always thought of him as our 'US Ranger'."

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said he was saddened by the death of the soldier.

"We owe a great debt of gratitude to him and the young people who are fighting to build peace in Afghanistan and protect us from the threat of international terrorism."

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Mr Cupples is an Irish citizen.

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