Laura Fitzgerald’s family was torn apart when an IRA bomb killed her brother and his colleagues. Here Laura bravely looks back on that moment and tells us how, decades later, she’s helping wounded veterans and families in his name and memory.
My brother and my hero
"When I opened the door and saw my dad with an army personnel officer, I immediately knew my brother had been killed.
"30 years later I created a Hero Fund remembrance page to commemorate him and support all those who’ve paid a heavy price for serving their country.
"From cheeky Barnet boy to respected Paratrooper, my brother was always a dare devil. Cheeky, fun-loving and insanely skillful on his BMX.
"After joining the Army Cadets and learning about The Parachute Regiment’s role during the Falklands conflict, Matthew set his heart on becoming a Paratrooper. It was tough but he persevered, even overcoming stress fractures in both legs to achieve his goal.
"After initial training, 19 year old Matthew joined 3 PARA in November 1987 and began his first tour of Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles. Over the next two years he became known as a dedicated and reliable paratrooper who was liked and respected by everyone.
"Matthew was proud to wear his red beret - and I was so proud of him." - Laura Fitzgerald.
The day our lives changed forever
"On 18 November 1989, two Army Landrovers were driving along the Rathriland to Mayobridge Road in County Down. As the patrol approached, Irish republican terrorists detonated a 500lb improvised explosive device. The first Landrover took the full blast and was hurled into the air; its mangled wreckage landing 20 yards away. Matthew was driving that Landrover.
"The blast killed him and two of his brothers in arms – Private Donald MacAuley and Lance Corporal Steven Wilson. Miraculously, the fourth soldier survived but was in a critical condition.
"When the attack was featured in the national press, our family loss became a public affair. My overriding need was for information but it took three years for the Army to issue a formal response.
Why I’ve chosen to remember Matthew through a Hero Fund
"My loss of Matthew has become more poignant as I’ve grown up and become a mum. My children feel the absence of the uncle they never knew and the cousins they never had. The grass keeps growing, but the loss is still there.
"As the 30th anniversary of Matthew's death approached, I created a Hero Fund to keep his name alive, and to bring family and friends together.
"I’ve held several cake sales to raise money and my son has been selling his Lego collection. Family, friends and Matthew’s former colleagues have all been so generous, and the speed with which my fundraising target was met showed me the impact he had on peoples’ lives.
"I’ll never get over my brother’s death, but it helps to know he will always be remembered with love and honour.
"Matthew was loyal, kind and generous, and he lived his life to the full. I hope, through his fund, we can help others who have paid a heavy price in service of their country to live their lives to the full too."
If you’ve been inspired by Laura’s story and would like to celebrate your own hero in a special and positive way, visit our Hero Funds page to find out more.