An army officer, who was awarded a Mention in Despatches for risking his life to expose enemy positions, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence confirmed last night.
Captain Stephen Healey, who survived a bomb explosion in Helmand province in 2010, was killed on Saturday while on patrol in the north of the Nahr-e Saraj district.
Captain Healey, 29, had been a semi-professional footballer and played for Swansea City in his native Wales before attending Swansea University to study sports science. He was commissioned into the 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh (The Royal Welch Fusiliers) in 2008.
After signing up with the regiment, he was honoured with a Mention in Despatches for his actions in the face of enemy fire.
The Cardiff-born platoon commander was cited as showing outstanding leadership during an enemy attack while protecting a team clearing a road of bombs.
Captain Healey drew enemy fire three times to expose their location and allow troops to return fire.
Speaking shortly afterwards to the Western Mail, he spoke of the camaraderie between the soldiers: "I came back feeling I knew every single thing about my lads. When you spend that amount of time in a close environment with people, you’re bound to.
"In the time we were there we noticed significant improvements in the area where we were. Shops were opening, the farmers were confident to talk to us out in the open, and were telling us where IEDs were planted.”
He also escaped injury when a bomb detonated under the Mastiff armoured vehicle in which he was commanding a convoy.
In an MoD interview, he said: "The responsibility is huge but it is also very satisfying and I am proud of them doing what they do out here."
On his return, Captain Healey led a group of 26 soldiers on a 224-mile charity run across Wales to raise money for the Army Benevolent Funds.
He was redeployed to Afghanistan in March. He was the 415th member of the UK forces to have died since operations started in October 2001.
He leaves behind his parents John and Kerry, and brother Simon. His family said: "Stephen was all you could wish for in a son, brother, uncle and friend. He will be sadly missed by us all. He managed to do more in his 30 years than most people do in a lifetime."
He also leaves behind his girlfriend, Thea, who said: "Stephen will always be in my heart. I will miss him so much, he was my love, my life and my everything. Now he rests in peace, he was living the life he wanted to do with his men."
Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Webb MC, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, led the tributes and said: "He was a brilliant Army Officer and a truly outstanding individual.
"He was a brilliant Army Officer and a truly outstanding individual. As the Recce Platoon Commander he cared deeply for his soldiers and they, in return, loved and respected him. And it was very easy to respect him.
"He had a calm, assured nature, an understated charm and the sort of personality that made it so easy to warm to him so very quickly – quick-witted and sharp his personality lightened any conversation."
Captain Adam Libbey, Second in Command, B Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, added: "Steve epitomises everything good about the Royal Welsh and the Army, fun, up for anything and fiercely loyal to his men and battalion.
"Ever reliable and honest, I cannot imagine a better officer and friend. Steve was a true winner of a bloke in every sense of the word. He will be sorely missed by all the battalion and his best mate."