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Honouring those who fought in the Gulf region, Iraq and Afghanistan 1990-2015

I had a great sense of privilege as I attended the unveiling of the Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial in Victoria Embankment Gardens on 9 March 2017. The sun shone on the guests gathered in Horse Guards Parade including many members of the Royal family, gathered for the Drumhead Service with music from the Band of HM Royal Marines Collingwood, the Band of Scots Guards and the Band of The Royal Air Force.

I was situated by the memorial itself where Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh moved to unveil the memorial. I sat with the Prime Minister, Theresa May and Lord Stirrup, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. The antics of two year old Alfie Lun who had been picked to present a bouquet to The Queen, featured in the coverage but The Queen appeared unfazed and everything ran smoothly.

The sculptor, Paul Day was on hand as we examined each side, one honouring military participants and the other civilians, including those who worked for charities and non-government organisations who played a role in the conflict.

Lunch was then taken in several marquees back on Horse Guards Parade and our group was joined by Their Royal Highnesses, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and His Royal Highness The Duke of York. This reception was generously supported by The Royal British Legion who were a key delivery partner for the event. I also had contact with Atkins, who supported the Trustees in enlisting the sculptor and managed the delivery of the memorial through design and construction.

I was delighted to be reunited with Craig Woodhouse of The Sun who spearheaded a campaign to honour participants of these conflicts. In 2015, Craig spoke at an event we held at Bath University by Mike Knott, a partner in our Court of Protection Team in Bristol.

We showcased the film Kajaki to numerous sporting personalities and members of the Bath Rugby Foundation and helped raise proceeds for the memorial in an auction.

Irwin Mitchell also made a separate donation to the campaign. The fundraising appeal had been started by The Sun on Remembrance Sunday 2014 and the Government committed financial support via LIBOR Funding.

The Souvenir Programme commenced with a message from Her Majesty The Queen indicating that she was sure the new memorial would provide a fitting opportunity for all to reflect upon the events of that period and to remember the many examples of personal courage and achievement in adversity, and the great sacrifices that were made.

I hope that if you fi nd yourselves in London by the River Thames, you will visit the memorial and take the opportunity to pause and remember. It is also close to Westminster Bridge which was to become a scene of a very different event later in the same month.

Published: 18 July 2017

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Geraldine McCool

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