A memorial plaque to fallen soldier Jordan Rossi – the first Bradford serviceman to die in Afghanistan – has been desecrated by vandals and its poignant message gouged and scratched with a knife point.

The deliberate attack was noticed by one of Sapper Rossi’s friends – only days from the fifth anniversary of his death on May 23, 2009, when the 22-year-old, of Baildon, was killed in a roadside blast while clearing mines near Sangin, Helmand Province.

Police Community Support Officer Luke Carson was a close friend of Sapper Rossi from their days as pupils at Titus Salt School and he told how he spotted the deep scratches defacing the brass plaque on a bench beside Baildon’s famous stone stocks in the town centre.

“I noticed someone had defaced the plaque and obviously, I was deeply affected by what had been done,” said PCSO Carson yesterday.

“Jordan and I were in the same class at school and he was a close friend.”

Former Royal Marine Ric Coulson is Sapper Rossi’s cousin and said whoever was responsible had caused further pain to his family.

“It’s a disgusting and hurtful thing to have done,” said Mr Coulson, now a cancer charity fundraiser.

“I was just back from Sangin for six weeks when Jordan was killed and now we’re coming up to a very poignant time of five years since it happened.

“However, our Remembrance Day is every day and that plaque was there to honour someone who gave their life for their country.

“It’s just disrespect.”

Roger L’Amie, chairman of the British Legion’s Baildon branch, also condemned whoever was responsible.

“I sadly regret such mindless vandalism of something in recognition of a brave young man who gave his life so others might live in freedom,” said Councillor L’Amie, the designated new Deputy Lord Mayor of Bradford.

“This is a thoughtless abuse of that freedom and the perpetrators should consider the effect on family and friends and reflect upon it.”

PCSO Carson won approval from Sapper Rossi’s parents, who are too upset to comment about the vandalism, for an online campaign to raise money for a replacement plaque.

He said: “I put a picture of it on Facebook so my and Jordan’s friends could see what had happened.

“Then I decided something had to be done so I organised a donation page and within 24 hours I’d raised £235.

“My target had only been £100 to replace the plaque and so I closed the site and donated £135 to Help For Heroes.

“I’ve arranged for a new plaque and will replace it myself.”

Mr Coulson thanked all those who had given cash to make good the damage so quickly.

“It shows people’s love and appreciation for those who gave their lives for their country,” he said.