THIS is the final resting place of Sapper Richard Walker.
The young Wearside soldier’s grave lies close to his Army colleagues at Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire.
Still covered with flowers from his devoted baby daughter and grieving mum, the 23-year-old’s family today thanked those who have helped them through the past two months.
Mum Kathryn, 46, said: “I know life is never going to be the same again, but I’m so grateful to the people who’ve supported me through a very difficult time.”
Sapper Walker, killed in Afghanistan at the beginning of January, would have turned 24 last Thursday.
Kathryn, of Blackfell, Washington, said: “I marked his birthday by taking my friend for a quiet drink at the Honest Boy, which was Richie’s local.
“I didn’t want to do too much after the funeral.”
Almost two weeks ago, hundreds of Wearsiders packed into Our Blessed Lady Immaculate Church in Washington Village to say goodbye to Sapper Walker before his body was taken down to Catterick Garrison for a private burial service.
Kathryn wanted her son buried close to Army colleagues who had become like brothers to the young soldier.
Sapper Walker, who joined the Army in 2008 after signing up at the Army Careers Centre in Sunderland city centre, had been in Afghanistan since last August, but was due to return home in March. He had been looking forward to being reunited with 22-month-old daughter Lilly-Faith.
But a rogue Afghan gunman shot dead the young soldier, as well as injuring six of his colleagues. One still remains in a critical condition in hospital.
Kathryn said: “It’s been a difficult few months, but we’ve been lucky to have such good support.
“Fred Davis from Charles Embleton Funeral Directors was so helpful, as were all the florists from Clare’s Florist in Washington who did all the flowers for Richie.
“All the girls at the Honest Boy pub have also been incredibly kind. They made a banner for Richie, which is still up when you go in there.”
The family of fallen Sunderland soldier Nathan Cuthbertson, killed in Afghanistan in 2008, have also been in touch with Kathryn to offer their support.
Private Cuthbertson and Sapper Walker were both pupils at Pennywell School at the same time.