Mem­o­ries of these men must not fade away. We all owe our lives to them

CAM­PAIGN TO PRO­TECT WAR MON­U­MENTS

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - Watts Goss - BY AN­TO­NIA PAGET an­to­nia.paget@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

Army veterans add their voices to our cam­paign

TWO he­roes stand ram­rod straight, wear­ing cam­paign medals and reg­i­men­tal ties with pride as they back our cam­paign to pre­serve Britain’s war memo­ri­als.

As the na­tion falls silent on Re­mem­brance Sun­day, Chris Fin­ney and Andy Reid spell out why we must never, ever, for­get the sac­ri­fices of our brave men and women sent to war.

From the gen­er­a­tions of young men and women wiped out in two world wars, to those who lost their lives dur­ing cam­paigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 1.7 mil­lion brave souls have died serv­ing their coun­try since 1914.

And that is why the Sun­day Mir­ror, in as­so­ci­a­tion with the War Memorial Trust and Yes­ter­day TV chan­nel, launched a cam­paign to re­pair and re­serve thou­sands of the mon­u­ments which have, trag­i­cally, fallen into dis­re­pair.

Iraq War hero Chris is the coun­try’s youngest ser­vice­man to be awarded the Ge­orge Cross, while Andy lost three limbs – and al­most his life – as he faced in­sur­gents dur­ing the war in Afghanistan.

Both men is­sued a clar­ion call to our own army of read­ers to do what­ever they can to sup­port the cam­paign.

FREE­DOM

Chris, 33, said: “It’s tremen­dously im­por­tant to have war memo­ri­als and to keep them in a good con­di­tion.

“The mem­o­ries of these men should not die and fade away.

“We can­not let that hap­pen. We owe our lives to them.

“Ev­ery­one should re­mem­ber that these peo­ple gave their lives to earn the free­dom the Bri­tish peo­ple en­joy ev­ery day. Each in­di­vid­ual is some­how con­nected to some­one who fought for their free­dom.

“Whether an an­ces­tor, a friend, a neigh­bour, ev­ery­one is touched and af­fected by it some­how. Ul­ti­mately their ac­tions were all in ser­vice to their coun­try, so it’s only right and proper that we re­mem­ber them.”

The for­mer Lance-cor­po­ral of horse lost a num­ber of com­rades and col­leagues while he was on tour with his D Squadron House­hold Cavalry reg­i­ment in Iraq in 2003.

He was awarded the Ge­orge Cross after he res­cued sev­eral sol­diers when their ve­hi­cle came un­der “friendly fire” at­tack from Amer­i­can air­craft.

Chris, who was shot him­self, was just 18 at the time.

He be­came the youngest ser­vice­man to re­ceive the Ge­orge Cross, the high­est award for acts of con­spic­u­ous gal­lantry performed when not in the face of the en­emy.

Chris still mourns col­leagues who died dur­ing the op­er­a­tion – and more of his friends who per­ished in subsequent tours.

And for today’s two minute si­lence he will pay his re­spects with work col­leagues at the Goon­hav­ern Gar­den Cen­tre which he now owns and runs near his home in Corn­wall.

HEART­BREAK­ING

Fa­ther-of-three Chris, who left the Army in 2009, added: “The names of my fallen com­rades and friends are listed at the Na­tional Memorial Abore­tum in Stafford­shire.

“An­other one of my friends from school is re­mem­bered on a memorial in Fern­down, Dorset, while there’s a memorial in Wind­sor with all the peo­ple from my reg­i­ment who have died. It would be heart­break­ing to see those memo­ri­als fall into dis­re­pair. The lads would have given any­thing to even make it to 33 years old, be mar­ried and have kids like me.

“It’s my duty to do some­thing worth­while in their mem­ory and that is why I am throw­ing my sup­port be­hind the Sun­day Mir­ror’s cam­paign.”

Of the 100,000 war memo­ri­als across the UK, only 30,000 have been sur­veyed and at least 8,000 may be in dis­re­pair.

If their de­cline is al­lowed to con­tinue the very ef­forts of the he­roes named on the mon­u­ments could be erased from the pub­lic con­science.

And that is some­thing Cor­po­ral Andy Reid in­sists can­not hap­pen.

Andy, who lost his limbs dur­ing a tour of Afghanistan in 2009, says the sacrifice of his fel­low sol­diers should not be for­got­ten.

The 41-year-old was blown up by a Tal­iban im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice

while on pa­trol in Hel­mand Prov­ince.

He was only 10 days away from fin­ish­ing his tour with the 3rd Bat­tal­ion the York­shire Reg­i­ment.

Andy lost both legs – one above the knee – his right arm and the in­dex fin­ger on his left hand. It was a mir­a­cle he sur­vived.

He said: “I’ve lost friends over there in Afghanistan.

“I wouldn’t want to think in 20 or 30 years’ time that peo­ple have for­got­ten about the bat­tle or that the memo­ri­als to my friends who have been lost are over­grown or dam­aged. I would like to think that in the fu­ture their memo­ri­als will be looked after. I am pas­sion­ate about mak­ing sure these guys are not for­got­ten.”

Today Andy remembers fallen com­rades dur­ing a pa­rade near his home in Rain­ford, just out­side St He­lens, Mersey­side.

The fa­ther of one, who has an­other baby on the way with part­ner Claire, 35, said mod­ern Britain must main­tain the mem­ory of its war he­roes.

He added: “The younger gen­er­a­tion need to know about the sac­ri­fices these men made for the free­dom we take for granted a lot of the time. It’s im­por­tant the next gen­er­a­tion know about their past.

“They need to un­der­stand about the dif­fer­ent con­flicts that have taken place through­out the years to pro­tect their coun­try.

“My lit­tle boy Wil­liam has just started school and I’d like to think he’ll learn about the First and Sec­ond World War and the sac­ri­fices they made.

BUR­DEN

“War memo­ri­als are a vis­i­ble re­minder of this and stand tes­ta­ment to their mem­ory.

“Chil­dren can go on school trips to memo­ri­als.

“Their names should never be for­got­ten, so it’s so im­por­tant to main­tain our memo­ri­als.”

The calls by Andy and Chris come as Gov­ern­ment fund­ing for the War Memo­ri­als Trust is run­ning dry – and next year will be cut off al­to­gether. That will mean the bur­den of main­te­nance and re­pair of mon­u­ments will inevitably fall to dili­gent fundrais­ers. The WMT will be even more re­liant on the work of vol­un­teers and do­na­tions.

Ap­peal­ing di­rectly to Sun­day Mir­ror read­ers to pro­tect their her­itage, Chris said: “If ev­ery­body just do­nated a pound or two we can keep our memo­ri­als look­ing their best and con­tinue to pro­vide a fo­cal point for peo­ple to re­mem­ber their loved ones.

“They are some­where you can go and spend a minute to think about these men, es­pe­cially when you can­not visit their graves in Iraq or Afghanistan. They are also a place for peo­ple to recog­nise the sol­diers who have stood up and done some­thing for their com­mu­nity.

“They should be pro­tected.”

WAR TRIB­UTE Andy at memorial in­StHe­lens,Lancs

WAR HERO He was in­jured in Afghanistan

HERO’S SALUTE Chris pays trib­ute at St New­lyn East

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