Veterans anticipate ‘poignant’ remembrance service after Covid restrictions

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    eterans anticipate a Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph with added poignancy this year as the event returns to its full size following the pandemic.

    An Afghanistan veteran told the PA news agency that marching at the central London war memorial again “means the absolute world”, after Covid limited the number of veterans and military last year.

    David Atkin said: “It’s such a poignant time of year for me having lost friends myself in Afghanistan. It gives me the opportunity to really remember their memory and all the good times we had.

    Mr Atkin being treated on the frontline after breaking his back as a machine gunner in Afghanistan in 2011 (David Atkin)

    “It’s probably even more poignant this year because I know a lot of people, especially from the RAF Regiment Association, who should have been marching there last year and are no longer with us, so they’re not able to march this year, so we’re doing it for them as well.”

    The 32-year-old, from Ruislip – who served as a senior aircraftman in the Royal Air Force Regiment, participated in the ceremony for five years prior to 2020.

    Last year, Mr Atkin marked remembrance by laying a wreath at the RAF memorial at Embankment but said it was “strange” not to be at the Cenotaph.

    Thousands of old soldiers, sailors and airmen will march past the Cenotaph in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday (Aaron Chown/PA Archive) / PA Archive

    Mr Atkin joined the RAF Regiment in 2008 when he was just 19 years old.

    He was deployed to Afghanistan as a machine gunner in 2010, but his military career was cut short when he smashed his spine in a road traffic accident six weeks in.

    He has suffered from chronic pain ever since, numbing it with daily high-dose painkillers. He has had six operations on his back and is on the waiting list for another two.

    “I’ve been in pain every day since the accident, so it’s quite hard to forget about what happened,” he said.

    But that does not deter him from joining the remembrance march.

    He said: “It is a hard thing to do, but I’m doing it for my friends that will never get the opportunity to because they didn’t make it back.

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