Surviving veterans and service personnel will be honoured with a new walkway.
Each of the granite slabs in the Veterans’ Walk in Mowbray Park will be engraved with the names of soldiers, sailors and airmen who have served, or are currently serving, their country.
The pathway, which will be built in the shadow of the Brothers in Arms Memorial Wall, is the first installation in the city which honours living service personnel. They, or their friends and family, can buy slabs to form the walkway which could one day snake through the park.
It’s the brainchild of Tom Cuthbertson from Tunstall, whose 19-year-old son, Private Nathan Cuthbertson, was one of three paratroopers killed on June 8, 2008 when a lone insurgent detonated an explosive in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Tom, who also built the Memorial Wall with the Brothers in Arms charity, said: “I came up with the idea because there isn’t a permanent recognition for people that have served, or are serving, their country. You get a medal from the Government, but this is a permanent reminder set in stone.
“It means people can buy their own slab, which is more meaningful. They can then show that to their children, to show them how proud they are of being in the military.”
Tom, a former Para who served in Northern Ireland, added: “I came up with the idea around the same time as the Memorial Wall, so it’s been about two years in the making, but we didn’t want it clash with the wall at the time.”
People have already expressed interest in buying the A4-sized slabs, with work due to begin around spring time to start the walkway.
Janice Procter, mum of Private Michael Tench, who was just 18 when he was killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb, says the Veterans’ Walk is a great idea.
“It’s always amazing to see Sunderland show its respect like this,” she said. “It’s a lovely idea as a present for birthdays and Christmas, as it’s something that will be here for years to come.
“It’s also historical and educational, people can bring their children to the Walk to learn about what people do for their country. I think what Tom’s doing is fantastic.”
The Veterans’ Walk team have spent months consulting with Sunderland City Council and Friends of Mowbray Park before launching the Walk.
Elsie Ronald, secretary of Friends of Mowbray Park, said: “There’s lots of stipulations around something like this, such as it can’t be slippy. But we think it’s a very well thought out idea. I’m thinking of buying a slab for my husband who served in WWII, it’s a very meaningful tribute.”
Rob Deverson, operations manager at Veterans’ Walk, said: “The Walk is for everyone who has served their country, they don’t have to be from Sunderland. “There’s been tremendous interest already, from as far afield as Ireland and family members who all serve who want their slabs together. It’s a real mark of respect for what people do for their country.
“The granite is from the same supplier that supplied Keel Square, it will last forever.”
•The granite slabs will cost £195. For more information visit www.veteranswalk.co.uk