THE parents of Ryan Ward have thanked the public for the ‘unbelievable’ and ‘absolutely overwhelming’ response given to their son as his coffin travelled through Kendal.
Thousands, under the request of dad Richard Ward, clapped rather than stood in silence, as the funeral procession headed towards the Town Hall.
The family had not expected such a response.
Mr Ward said: “It was so surreal, but very, very moving and reassuring for us all. Before the day I was just wishing it was over but it was calming to see the support we had. I want to thank everybody.
“The church was packed, the grounds were filled, and people not only came out in the centre of town but all the way to the cemetery.
“It was important for me that people clapped. It would have made it worse to see people stood in silence but the clapping really did take the pressure off us going through town.”
School friends, army colleagues, teachers and strangers had come from near and far.
Mr Ward said: “One friend had come from Newcastle, and people had come from not just Kendal but the outlying areas.
“It was very humbling for the family.”
The wife of Sgt Gareth Thursby, and father of Private Thomas Wroe, were also in attendance.
The two men, both from 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, were shot dead when they went to the aid of a rogue Afghan policeman who had pretended to be injured.
Ryan had been to the funeral of Sgt Thursby the day before his death.
Ryan's parents will now go to Warminster and collect a medal in honour of their son’s duty in Afghanistan.
Talking about Ryan’s fellow soliders, Mr Ward said: “I can see they are like band of brothers. All 140 from 3rd Yorkshire who served with him in Afghanistan were there, and around 70 from his Duke of Lancaster’s regiment.
“And on the Saturday before the funeral they stayed in Kirkland Hall and had a party for Ryan, when they took Mark under their wing.
“They had the cans of beer lined up in the words ‘Brucey’ which was Ryan’s nickname. He would have loved to have been there.”
As Ryan was buried at Parkside Cemetery he was given a three-volley salute. And around 500 people then packed into the Ibis Sports and Social Club, Kendal, to commemorate the man’s life.
“Although it’s very difficult to get over it, we will get it over with the support of our friends and people in Kendal,” said Mr Ward.
He added: “People said to me that they have never seen anything like this before in Kendal and I hope we never have to see it again. A parent should never have to bury their child.”
The family would now like to be left alone to grieve in peace.