‘I sometimes wonder if my Jon is watching’

Jon McKinlay and Lisa on their wedding day.
Jon McKinlay and Lisa on their wedding day.

The young widow of a soldier who was killed in Afghanistan has paid tribute to him in a new book which honours the bravery and sacrifice of those who lost their lives in the conflict.

Lisa McKinlay, from Garstang, had only been married for 10 months when her husband Lance Corporal Jon McKinlay was shot dead.

Jon McKinlay in Afghanistan.

Jon McKinlay in Afghanistan.

Now she has opened her heart so that more people will know about her hero – the man whom she describes in the book as a wonderful, vibrant, thrillseeker.

LCpl McKinlay is one of 20 soldiers and Marines who feature in At The Going Down of the Sun: Love, Loss and Sacrifice in Afghanistan.

LCpl McKinlay died on September 14, 2011, while out on a joint patrol with the Afghan police. It was 6pm and the Afghans needed to pray, so they stopped in a small garden.

Since Muslims must pray to the east, LCpl McKinlay had taken out his compass to point his comrades in the right direction. At that moment, with his attention distracted, a hidden Taliban gunman opened fire, spraying the static group of men with AK47 rounds.

Jon was hit in the neck and the leg, and collapsed into a ditch with what was later described as an ‘unsurvivable’ injury. He was 33.

Lisa, who met Jon in 2007, said: “With Jon, you rarely knew what you were going to be doing, where you were going, or why. I often have a little chat with him and tell him about what is going on in my life. I wonder if he’s watching.”

The pair were living in Darlington when they got married but Lisa moved back to Garstang after he died so that she could be closer to her family.

Three years after he died she’s still struggling to come to terms with his death and Christmas is a particularly hard time for her and her daughter, Jon’s stepdaughter, Piper.

“Jon is literally there all the time, from the minute I wake up until I go to sleep, and then he’s in my dreams,” said Lisa, 35. “We’d been married just 10 months when he left us. But we’d had five great years before that.

“In fact, it felt more like 30 because we packed so much into a short time.”

The book’s author Graham Bound said: “A total of 453 British men and women have died during the conflict in Afghanistan and it has been an absolute privilege to tell the stories of 20 of them.

“I found them very humbling and moving. Some families lost their only child and in all cases the loss of a son or daughter has left an enormous hole in their lives.”

At The Going Down Of The Sun: Love, Loss and Sacrifice in Afghanistan, is published by Monday Books and is available in bookshops and online, priced £18.99.