An ex-pat who served in the RAF received a touching surprise on a return trip to his home city after his family bought him a stone on the Veterans’ Walk.
Ian Wayman’s name is the latest to be added to the ever-increasing pathway of granite slabs in Mowbray Park which honours current and past Armed Forces Personnel.
Established by Tom Cuthbertson - whose son Private Nathan Cuthbertson, 19, was killed in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan whilst serving in the troubled Helmand Province in 2008 - the path is designed to honour not just the fallen, but those living who’ve served their country.
Around 250 slabs are now in place since the first stone was laid in November 2016, with another 50 due to be laid this November.
Ian’s stone was a special addition made to coincide with a trip home from Melbourne, Australia, where he lives with wife Taryn. The 54-year-old, who served as a Sergeant in the RAF working in the data analyst field, knew nothing about the slab until his family took him to the park.
Ian, who is back in Sunderland to visit parents Bob and Flo, said: “It was a lovely surprise. One of my friends on Facebook has a stone and I had seen a picture of it and mentioned to my wife what a great idea it was, but I had no idea my family had bought one for me. I visit Sunderland once a year to see my parents and it’s fantastic to have this here.
“A lot of people move on from the military and retire but it always stays with you. It’s like one big family and whenever you bump into someone else who’s served you always remember the good times.”
Ian, who is dad to Helen, 29, Phillip, 26, and grandfather to Indiana, seven months, served for 15 years in the airforce, including a six year stint at Nato headquarters, before emigrating to Australia where he now works in data analysis for the police force.
Tom Cuthbertson, a former Paratrooper who served in Northern Ireland, said: “Australia is one of the furthest away orders we’ve had for a stone, but we’ve had orders from around the world, including Canada. What’s great about the walk is that it’s a tribute, not a memorial, it’s a recognition of anyone who’s served. You don’t have to have passed away to have a stone, you can come down and see the stone for yourself. But it’s also here long after you’re gone as a permanent reminder.”
•To purchase a slab visit http://veteranswalk.co.uk/