Ex-servicemen back on road to raise funds for fellow veterans
A group of veterans are walking from Scotland back to their native Northern Ireland this weekend to raise funds for a charity which supports former members of the armed forces in need and their families.
Members of Beyond the Battlefield Memorial Walkers set out in the early hours of yesterday morning from Edinburgh Castle for the three-day walk.
Beyond the Battlefield looks after the well-being of the ex-service community in both parts of the island of Ireland who suffer with a variety of symptoms and problems related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The four walkers hope to finish in Newtownards on Monday afternoon where they will lay wreaths at the Cenotaph in memory of fallen comrades.
The 130-mile walk is being led by Eric Larkin, who served in the Light Infantry, alongside Dave Wilman (Queen's Lanchashire Regiment), Mick Atkinson and Sean Pieres (Royal Engineers).
This is the second year that the veterans have taken on the challenge after walking from Edinburgh to Carrickfergus on the same weekend last year.
They are being accompanied by Eric's partner Carol who drives a minibus to ensure the walkers are fed, watered and blister free during their trek.
The veterans are due to arrive at Stormont on Monday morning where they will be joined by other past and present military members on the last stretch of their walk to Newtownards.
Eric said: "As a veterans charity, Beyond the Battlefield doesn't charge for any service it carries out for its members and relies completely on grants, donations and fundraising activities.
"Beyond the Battlefield helps with things like grants, housing, PTSD, which we have all suffered from, and much more.
"I feel that this is a great cause and Northern Ireland veterans are basically being forgotten about due to the British Armed Forces Covenant not being honoured here," he added.
The military covenant represents Britain's duty of care to its armed forces, in return for the sacrifices made in the line of duty.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government enshrined the covenant in law for the first time in November 2011, requiring the Defence Secretary to make an annual statement on what is being done to support the armed forces.
However, a long-running dispute between the DUP and Sinn Fein means no action has been taken here, unlike in the other UK regions.
Eric has also set up a Just Giving page called Beyond The Battlefield Memorial Walkers if any one wishes to support the veterans on their walk.