Family at memorial to heroes

Phil and Joan Amer wth Association Standards (Chris Melvylle Sunderland Standard) members of Coldstream Guards

Phil and Joan Amer wth Association Standards (Chris Melvylle Sunderland Standard) members of Coldstream Guards

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THE family of fallen hero John Amer fought back tears at the unveiling of a memorial in honour of a soldier from his battle-scarred battalion.

The sergeant’s mum Joan and his brother Phill, 34, from Ryhope, were among those at the launch of the steel artwork, created in tribute to three local heroes, including Guardsman Michael Sweeney.

John Amer

John Amer

The 19-year-old, who served in the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, where Sgt Amer was based, was blown up by a bomb in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province last year.

Mrs Amer, 56, whose son died in an explosion in the war zone in 2009, said: “It was an amazing turnout for the unveiling. It was very moving. It brought tears to your eyes.”

The battalion has suffered a series of fatalities and multiple casualties during its operations in Afghanistan.

Despite coming under heavy fire from the Taliban, Sgt Amer, 30, rushed to help a fellow soldier injured in an explosion.

“We got to know Michael’s family through a charity football match they were organising,” said Mrs Amer. “It was an honour to be there at the unveiling of the memorial.”

Life-size images of Guardsman Sweeney, along with Stan Laurel and Pc David Rathband, were created in weathering steel and decorate the Portrait Bench. They sit along a collection of new and refurbished paths that connect communities throughout the soldier’s hometown of Blyth, Northumberland.

Keith Powell, from the Sunderland branch of the Coldstream Guards Association, also attended the event with fellow members of the military group.

“It was humbling to see the two families of two Coldstream legends giving each other comfort and support throughout the short but meaningful service,” he said.

All three men were selected from the memorial, as they all have a connection with the coastal town.

Although not hailing from Blyth, comedian Stan Laurel spent many of his early years on stage in the town.

Pc Rathband, who served with Northumbria Police force for more than 10 years, working in Sunderland during some of that time, showed tremendous bravery after being shot by killer Raoul Moat.

The policeman, from the town, has since started his own charity, The Blue Lamp Foundation, with the aim of helping emergency service personnel who have been injured in the line of duty.

Meanwhile, a charity night organised by the Coldstream Guards Association has raised £1,500 for military charities.

Money raised at the event in Sunderland Catholic Club, in the city centre, will be split evenly between the Coldstream Association support group,

Coldstream Kids, which supports struggling children of both serving and former soldiers, and Brothers In Arms, which recently raised cash for a war memorial in the city.

Organisers hailed the night, which took place this month, “a massive success”.