SUNDERLAND is to stage its own major event to celebrate our serving heroes.
Wearsiders will come together on Armed Forces Day in appreciation of the work and sacrifice of Britain’s Army, Navy and Air Force.
The event, which aims to be the biggest of its kind in England, will take place at Seaburn Recreation Park, on June 25.
It will coincide with others across the country, but organisers aim to make Armed Forces Day in Sunderland second only in size to the national event being held in Edinburgh.
Paul Jasper, chairman of the Silver Bugle Association, said: “Sunderland has never celebrated the day on such a scale. It is a chance for the public to show their appreciation to our forces.”
The idea has been backed by Royal British Legion Northumbria, which includes Sunderland, New Silksworth, New Washington, Boldon Colliery, Durham City, Seaham, Murton and Peterlee branches.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said County Officer David Bell.
“Sunderland, over the last few years, has been leading the way outside London.
“It has the second biggest remembrance parade and the Armed Forces Day will add to that.
“Anything that remembers the fallen, those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, is good by me.
“And it will be a celebration of what our armed forces are still doing for us.”
The event is being deemed more important than ever following the involvement of British armed forces over Libya in recent days.
He added: “Sunderland has lost quite a few of its young people in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last few years, and it’s right that we remember them.”
They include Private Michael Tench, of Carley Hill, who died in Iraq in 2007, aged 18.
His mum Janice Murray is helping to organise the day.
“As a parent of a fallen soldier you never forget,” she said.
“We do have Armistice Day and the like, but we don’t seem to have anything to remind us of those still fighting for our freedom, every second of every day.”
Forces Day Sunderland will be family-oriented and action-packed, with a mini-fair, buy and sell tables, live bands, solo singers, beer tent, paint-balling, food stalls, face painting and much more to keep visitors busy.
There will be an opening ceremony featuring a military-style parade from the city’s cadets, and parade for veterans and soldiers.
“It really will be a fantastic day,” said Mr Jasper, from Castletown.
“We will be holding one minute of applause in recognition of the forces and we hope that everyone in Sunderland will join us.”
Chris Alexander, head of culture and tourism at Sunderland Council, said: “Sunderland City Council is a firm supporter of the Armed Forces and is proud of the men and women from Sunderland who serve in them.
“We think it’s fantastic that Mr Jasper is organising this event to celebrate Armed Forces Day. We hope it will be a big success.”
The Ministry of Defence has donated a grant to help get the event off the ground. However, the organisers still require donations.
Cheques or postal orders, which must be made out to Forces Day Sunderland, can be sent to Janice Murray, 3 Erin Square, Sunderland, SR5 2QA. Please enclose a SAE for receipt.