FORMER soldiers were given a heroes’ welcome when they took to streets to march in honour of injured service personnel.
Ex-members of The Rifles and other regiments donned uniforms once again to highlight the bravery of the Armed Forces, as well as help support those wounded fighting in warzones such as Afghanistan.
Kitted out in full battle dress and equipment, the 18-strong group was cheered on by shoppers as they followed a route through Sunderland city centre.
“The reception was absolutely fantastic,” said Paul Jasper, president of the Silver Bugle Association, which organised the event.
“It was a really uplifting experience.”
It is hoped the 10km march will raise thousands of pounds for The Rifles’ Care for Casualties appeal.
The regiment, which was recently given Freedom of the City status in Sunderland, has been one of the hardest hit in the fight against the Taliban.
“So far we’ve raised about £800, but we’ve still got the sponsorship money to come in, so were hoping to raise between £3,000 and £4,000,” said Mr Japser.
The 51-year-old dad-of-three, from Castletown, added: “I know that money is tight these days and lots of people are raising money for charity. But the great thing about this event is that we’re actually right there in front of the people. They can see us and what we’re doing.”
The march started at Pallion Metro, before heading to Chester Road, Hylton Road, through the city centre, over Wearmouth Bridge, alongNewcastle Road, Sea Road and Dykelands Road, where it ended at the TA centre.
“We’re all ex-servicemen, so it’s a charity close to all our hearts and it’s a great cause,” said Mr Jasper.
“The Rifles are our local regiment. They were hit badly out in Afghanistan and there was a number of lads from the region who were killed or badly injured.”
Marchers also took time to remember those who have died in recent conflicts, holding a short ceremony at the city’s new Brothers in Arms memorial during their walk.
“The march took us about two hours and twenty minutes in total,” added Mr Jasper. “It was certainly worth it.”