Slain soldiers promoted in memoriam
Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar has promoted the three Czech soldiers who were killed on a mission in Afghanistan, Martin Marcin, Kamil Benes and Patrik Stepanek, to the rank of master warrant officer in memoriam, the ministry announced on Twitter today.
The soldiers’ promotion was proposed to Metnar by Chief-of-Staff Ales Opata.
Marcin, 36, was a staff sergeant, while Benes, 28, and Stepanek, 25, were corporals, all NCO ranks.
They died in a suicide bomber’s attack while patrolling in the surroundings of the Bagram allied base in the Parwan province on Sunday. Afghan and U.S. soldiers were severely wounded in the attack.
The three soldiers were part of a Czech unit that started guarding the Bagram base this April. They were scheduled to return to the Czech Republic after six months in October.
Earlier today, First Deputy Chief of Staff Jiri Baloun told journalists that a plane will fly for the soldiers remains from the Czech Republic this evening. It will return on Wednesday afternoon, escorted by the Gripen fighters over the Czech Republic.
It will land at Prague’s Ruzyne airport at 16:15, with bells in the city’s Catholic churches ringing in commemoration of the dead heroes.
The mourning ceremony at the airport will be attended by the families of the dead soldiers, President Milos Zeman and other senior state officials, Baloun said.
There will be also representatives of the military and the 42nd mechanised battalion from Tabor, south Bohemia, where the soldiers served.
On landing in Prague, the dead soldiers’ coffins will be put on catafalques before the military guard of honour. Chief miliary chaplain Jaroslav Knichal will deliver a mourning speech and the national anthem will follow.
After the 30-minute ceremony, the coffins will be passed to a motorcade and transferred to the Central Military Hospital, accompanied by the Guard of Honour and the Military Police.
“All families [of the fallen soldiers] have agreed with staging their funerals with military honours,” Baloun said, adding that the funerals will be held at places according to the respective families’ choice.
Sirens will be ringing in remembrance of the three soldiers on Wednesday noon.
The Prague Archbishopric has announced that church bell ringing will accompany the plane’s landing later on Wednesday.
Several commemorative sites for people to pay homage to the dead soldiers have appeared, including outside the General Staff headquarters in Prague.
Lenka Smerdova, who heads the Military Fund of Solidarity (VFS), said a wave of solidarity has arisen among soldiers as well as civilians, which is why the VFS has launched a public fund raising campaign in support of the dead soldiers’ families.