As we approach November and Remembrance Day, thoughts of those in our Armed Forces are at the forefront of our minds. In just over one week’s time, communities will gather to commemorate those lost in war and many serving personnel will be on duty across the globe as they continue to serve their country away from their family and friends.
It was with this in mind that Tom Cuthbertson, whose son Nathan was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2008, realised the importance of remembering all personnel who have served their country in any capacity – those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, but also those who are not always publically recognised for their service and the sacrifices they make. Tom, his wife Carla and their friend Rob Deverson therefore launched The National Veterans Walkway in Mowbray Park, Sunderland, to act as tribute not a memorial. In 2016 the first stones of the tribute path were laid, as a ‘permanent reminder for anyone who wishes to create a legacy, whether still surviving or having passed away in peacetime.’
The stones do not only commemorate those who have died, but they recognise those who have served or are still serving; ‘there are over 26,000 ex-servicemen and women living in Sunderland today who don’t have a chance to be honoured permanently for their valiant efforts on behalf of their country.’
Stones are not only for those who have finished their service according to Rob Deverson: ‘We have people contacting us before they retire, saying that they’d like to install a stone now and add their retirement date later – that’s absolutely fine and easy to do. We also cover all cap badges, even those from smaller regiments which have now amalgamated into bigger regiments. Anything is possible.’
The first of its kind in the UK, Tom and Rob hope that the initiative will expand out of Sunderland, with more local councils choosing to install Veterans Walks over the next few years. In the meantime, for those who live outside of Sunderland, stones can be sent to individuals so that they can be placed in their homes. This ‘allows everyone to have a small piece of the path with them, even if they’re miles away from Mowbray Park.’
If you would like to buy a stone for you, a friend or a loved one then visit www.nationalveteranswalk.co.uk to find out more.
The next dedication ceremony will be taking place on 7th December and all are welcome to attend.