VIDEO: Heartfelt tributes to Dereham soldier Lewis Hendry
The parents of fallen Dereham soldier Lewis Hendry have paid a heartfelt tribute to their beloved son – and thanked the people of the town for their incredible support.
Kelvin and Katrina Hendry gave a moving interview to the Dereham Times this week in which they spoke of Lewis' amazing personality and the immense pride they had in him.
And the couple also said they were 'totally overwhelmed' by the backing shown in Dereham since Lewis died on patrol in Afghanistan on February 9, just three days before his 21st birthday.
On the day of his funeral, a crowd of about 2,000 packed the Market Place and Church Street to pay their respects as the body of the paratrooper from Colchester-based 3PARA was carried to Dereham Cemetery.
Mr and Mrs Hendry said they and their other children Jamie, 23, and Stacey, 19, were enormously grateful at the effort people had made.
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Shops were closed, work stopped and the usual bustle of the market town paused in a poignant display of respect, sorrow and pride – initially silent, followed by spontaneous ripples of applause.
Mr Hendry, 50, who works for local building firm Meltons, said: 'We were overwhelmed and everyone has been amazing.
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'We just want to say thank you to the people of Dereham. Words are not enough to say how we really feel.'
He had an obvious strong bond with his son and said: 'If you had a hug off Lewis it felt like you had had a hug off a thousand people. He lit up the room when he walked in and there was something about him which was so special. He would do anything for anyone and had a real aura about him.'
Mrs Hendry, 46, who works for Tesco in Dereham, said: 'It did not matter when Lewis was walking through town, he would still come over and give me a hug and kiss.
'He would walk through town and hold my hand. I told him he was too old to hold my hand but he said: 'But you are my mum'. That is what he was like. He was something special.'
Mr Hendry said Lewis had first shown an interest in joining the army at the age of 15 and only had one regiment he wanted to join.
'He said he wanted to be 3PARA or nothing.'
Lewis joined in 2008 and passed out in the December of that year.
Mrs Hendry said: 'He was so proud and had worked really hard and we were really proud of him.'
She recalled Lewis had telephoned home the day before he died.
'He was always in good spirits and you could see why he loved the army and there was such a good bond with his mates. When he rang he was fine and was talking about his birthday and he told me off for blarring.'
Fundraising events have already been held in Lewis' memory to raise money for the Afghan Trust and a fun day is being planned at Tesco – where Mrs Hendry works – on April 16.
Mr and Mrs Hendry wanted to thank so many people for their support, including Mark Stevenson, the army's visiting officer,
Mrs Hendry said: 'He has been here since day one and has been with us and cried with us and has been part of the family and has been a real godsend.'
The Hendry family has encouraged donations made in Lewis' honour to the Afghanistan Trust, which helps support wounded Parachute Regiment soldiers and the families of those killed in combat.
Donations can be made by visiting www.afghanistantrust.org or via RJ Bartram Funeral Directors, 17 Theatre Street, Dereham, who will collect donations until April 30.