Afghan war hero killed by rare cancer

Sergeant Major Grant Armstrong, from Newbiggin, who has died from cancer.
Sergeant Major Grant Armstrong, from Newbiggin, who has died from cancer.

THE parents of a soldier who cheated death in Afghanistan four years ago have spoken of their heartbreak of losing him to cancer.

But Pat and Jack Armstrong, of Newbiggin, also told of the moving support they received from their son Grant’s Army colleagues before and after his death this month.

The newly promoted sergeant major had only just landed his dream job at an officers’ training academy in Oxford.

It would have meant an end to leaving wife Donna and three-year-old daughter Jessica at their home in Norwich to risk life and limb on tours of duty abroad.

But in a cruel twist of fate, the 37-year-old was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer usually affecting children.

The dad of two – also a brother to Dale 42, and Lesley, 45 – had survived a firefight in Afghanistan in 2007 only because he managed to duck the moment before his tank was hit by a hail of AK-47 bullets.

Pat, 65, a retired nurse, said: “I was proud of him from the day he was born. He was just my life.

“It started a year past Christmas. He thought he had a sinus infection. We just put it down to that.

“When he found out, he just said ‘mam it’s bad news’ and gave us a cuddle. I just couldn’t take it in.

“He was so brave.

“He gave us a few tears when he first got the news, but he never cried again.

“The week before he died he went into a morphine coma.

“They said he could still hear, and once he opened his eyes and he looked at me and smiled.

“His wife and his Army mates never left his side. They even let his dog, a Rhodesian ridgeback, come into the hospital.

“I was diagnosed with cancer last year myself. I wish it could have been me as I’ve had my life.”

Jack, 72, a former miner, said: “I just can’t believe I’ve lost him. I’ve cried for a month.

“It was terrible watching him die.”

Nearly 400 people attended Grant’s funeral at Swanton Morley on June 14.

Pat added: “All his friends just swarmed around him. They were wonderful, the Army’s been fantastic. They have treated us like family.”