Military students from across Wearside are honouring those who have served before them in a pioneering UK initiative.

The Veterans’ Walk, at Sunderland’s Mowbray Park, is a pathway of more than 1000 granite stones which recognises serving and former Forces personnel from the Army, RAF, Royal Navy and Merchant Navy.

The only one of its kind in the country, it is ‘a lasting tribute to proud service’ - and students at Sunderland’s Military Preparation College are showing their respects by ensuring it remains in tip-top condition.

Twice a year, newly purchased stones honouring men and women who have served, or are still, serving in the Armed Forces are unveiled with military honours in formal ceremonies.

The stones each bear the name, regimental badge and years of service of a member of the armed forces and can be bought by the service men and women themselves, or as a gift by their loved ones.

The students from MPC Sunderland – one of 35 Military Preparation Colleges across England and Wales - give up their time to ensure the ground is prepared, the stones are clean and polished and the pathway looks its best for the dignitaries and families who attend the events.

The College, at Beacon of Light, Stadium Way, is open to 16-19-year-olds and along with training in physical fitness it offers free courses in core subjects such as English and Mathematics, led by instructors who are all ex-British Armed Forces personnel.

While many students go on to a military career, many opt for civilian roles, helped by the College’s training in life skills such as problem solving, public speaking, leadership and communication.

North East Regional Operations Manager and former Sandhurst instructor, Ronnie Corbett, said that helping prepare and maintain the Veterans’ Walk “is an honour for our learners.

“The military is very much a family and through tending the stones they learn not just about the huge diversity of military campaigns and regiments but about the importance of paying tribute and of remembering.

“It’s about respect, gratitude and pride – and each one of them takes the greatest care to ensure the stones and the pathway are a fitting tribute to those they represent.” 

Rob Deverson, operations director for Sunderland Veterans’ Walk said the organisation – which is in talks with councils across the UK to replicate it elsewhere – is “very grateful” to the MPC students.

“They are the next generation,” he said, “and the willingness to help and the care they take would make all our veterans very proud indeed.”

A stone on the Veterans’ Walk is priced at £249 and can be ordered at www.nationalveteranswalk.co.uk

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