BROTHERS in arms who were sent to war just days after their young sister's funeral returned home from Iraq this week.
Lee and Adam Collins were greeted by a street party when they pulled up outside their Charles Street home in Chirk.
They were sent to Iraq just after the funeral of their eight-year-old sister Lucy, who died of meningitis shortly before Christmas last year.
Their parents, Maggie and Ken, were only told the pair were coming home the day before their arrival. 'We got a call at 3.20pm on Monday saying they would be home on Tuesday afternoon,' said Maggie.
'It was a great surprise, as we had no warning at all. I was told they would be back in the next month or so but to get a call to tell me I would see them the next day was wonderful news.
'As soon as we found out, the neighbours put out banners and balloons in preparation.'
Lee, 23 and Adam, 21, are privates in the Territorial Army's Welch Fusiliers.
'Lee has been in for three years and Adam for 12 months, so they are both pretty new to the whole thing,' said Maggie. 'But their sergeant said we should be proud of them, as should the community, because the Army was certainly very proud of them.
She added: 'The Army knew what had happened to Lucy and were impressed that the boys were able to go out and do their job so well in Iraq despite their heartbreak.
'It was a terrible time for them to be called up. It was at a time when our family needed to pull together and support each other - but it was torn apart.
'That was difficult for us at home to deal with as well as for them. We had already lost one child and two more were going to war. But they had a job to do out there and they kept it together to do just that.' Maggie said: 'I have been able to keep in touch with them pretty regularly through the British Forces Post Office (BFPO). I'd send a letter, worry for 10 weeks then get one back - it's something you get used to. Now they're home with a few scratches but thankfully nothing more.'
She added: 'The reception they got from the neighbours was great, a real heroes' welcome. All the neighbours have been tremendous in supporting us over the last few months.'
Once the celebrations have died down, the family will find time to grieve for little Lucy.
Lucy was admitted to Wrexham Maelor Hospital on December 19 after developing a fever. She was quickly transferred to Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool when doctors diagnosed meningitis.
But the very next day Lucy passed away. And this week is the first time the family has had the time to reflect on the events of seven months ago.
'We have to sit down together and come to terms with what has happened,' Maggie said.
'Lucy's death was so sudden and so devastating and Lee and Adam were called up so soon afterwards that we have not had a chance to truly grieve. We are a family with very strong bonds and we need to deal with what has happened together. The war delayed that but hopefully now we can sort things out in our own heads.'