Memories of these men must not fade away. We all owe our lives to them
CAMPAIGN TO PROTECT WAR MONUMENTS
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.
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.
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.
“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