Veterans walk from Edinburgh to Ards for armed forces charity
A group of Army veterans received a heroes' welcome yesterday as they returned home following a marathon trek from Scotland to Northern Ireland.
Members of Beyond the Battlefield Memorial Walkers had set out in the early hours of Friday morning from Edinburgh Castle.
Their three-day walk was to raise funds for a charity which supports former members of the armed forces in need and their families.
The 130-mile trek was led by Eric Larkin, who served in the Light Infantry, and his team of Dave Wilman (Queen's Lancashire Regiment), Mick Atkinson and Sean Pieres (both Royal Engineers).
The veterans were joined on their final 10 miles from Stormont yesterday by Newtownards Sea Cadets, who formed a guard of honour on their arrival at the British Legion in Ards.
A piper escorted the walkers to Ards Cenotaph for a memorial service and wreath-laying in memory of fallen comrades.
While four veterans had originally set out on Friday's walk, one member of the group was forced to drop out along the way.
"Unfortunately we lost one member of the team, Mick, who ended up going to hospital because of issues with fluid on his knee," Eric said.
"The three of us had to carry on without him after doctors decided he was unfit to continue. Despite that setback, we're proud as punch at having been able to do this," he added.
This was the second year that the veterans took on the challenge after walking from Edinburgh to Carrickfergus last year.
Eric and his team were raising money for Beyond the Battlefield, a charity that relies on grants, donations and fundraising activities to support the wellbeing 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).
Eric: added "While we're glad it's all over, we're already looking ahead to next year." But he said that advancing years are taking their toll.
"With a combined age of 232 among the four of us, we're getting too old for this," he added.
"Next year, it will take place on the same weekend, but it will be a relay walk in stages."
Eric has also set up a JustGiving page called 'Beyond The Battlefield Memorial Walkers' for anyone who still wishes to support the veterans' walk.