Armed Forces Day will last all week as Sunderland pays tribute to its service personnel past and present.
Celebrations for the day - on Saturday - kick off with the union flag raised at Sunderland Civic Centre today, which is also national military Reserves Day, then continue across the weekend at Seaburn Recreation Ground.
“It is a three-day event,” said Paul Jasper, from the organising committee.
“Friday evening is the Armed Forces Concert, which is a little bit like the Last Night of the Proms. It is a flag-waving patriotic song-along.
“We have a tenor and a soprano performing, so it will be a real event.
“Saturday is our military day, when we will have the march along the seafront from noon, followed by the inspection of the troops.
If Sunderland won the FA Cup or England won the World Cup, we would all be celebrating - well, we have the best armed forces in the world, so we should celebrate that.Paul Jasper
“The parade will set off from the Fat Buddha, opposite the old fairground, and march along to the recreation ground.
“On Saturday evening, we have got the Armed Forces social evening in the marquee, with a Take That tribute act and Duo King and I performing and then Sunday is our family day.
“We have a dog show that is open to every dog possible and at noon we will have the kids’ football.”
Paul has been delighted with the response from the public since Armed Forces Day began about a decade ago.
“It used to be Veterans’ Day, then Gordon Brown decided to rename it Armed Forces Day, which is good,” he said.
“Now it is a celebration of all our Armed Forces and service personnel and people are more aware of it.
“That was about nine or ten years ago and we have been doing it in Sunderland for the last eight years. Last year was our biggest yet.”
Armed Forces Day means a lot to Paul because he served himself: “I was in the Light Infantry and the Royal Green Jackets, which is now The Rifles, and my son is in the Army,” he sad.
“This weekend is a celebration of our forces and the commitment they give us around the world. If Sunderland won the FA Cup or England won the World Cup, we would all be celebrating - well, we have the best Armed Forces in the world, so we should celebrate that.”
Tickets for Saturday night are £5 and are available on the door or by visiting the group’s Facebook page facebook.com/Sunderland-Armed-Forces-Weekend-673308699454465/