11:00am Friday 18th June 2010
By Chris Walker
FOR the past two years they have turned out every time a fallen hero has been brought home from the war in Afghanistan, come rain or shine.
Veteran servicemen from the Royal British Legion were out in force again in Oxford last night as the bodies of Private Jonathon Monk, 25, of 2nd Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, and Lance Corporal Andrew Breeze, 31, of 1st Battalion Mercian Regiment, were repatriated.
After being flown back to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, the bodies were driven through the town of Wootton Bassett, past the lay-by on the A420 where Faringdon residents pay their respects, to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Headington, where post-mortems examinations are held.
Members of the public lined Headley Way and watched in silence as veterans dipped their standards when the cortege came slowly past at about 7pm.
It was a particularly poignant memorial as legion members marked the second anniversary of attending repatriations.
Jim Lewendon, vice-president of the Royal British Legion, said: “It is exactly two years since we first started doing this and I hope to God we won’t be here in two years’ time.
“Some of our members fought in the Second World War, so they are getting quite old, but they still come along when they can because they think it is the right thing to do.
“All we can do is stand in silent tribute, but we think it is worthwhile. Each occasion is very emotional.”
Mr Lewendon, 81, said since June 16, 2008, the servicemen in Headley Way have paid tribute on 79 occasions, including yesterday, for 177 servicemen.
Lee Mackie, the mother of 21-year-old Marine Jason Mackie, from Bampton, thanked RBL members and members of the public for taking part in the tributes.
Marine Mackie was commanding an armoured vehicle in Helmand, on May 14, 2009, when a buried bomb ripped it apart, throwing him 25 metres from the explosion.
Mrs Mackie said: “Until I lost Jason I had no idea these repatriation tributes went on and I think what happens in Wootton Bassett, Headington and on the A420 is amazing.
“It is so important that the lads out in Afghanistan realise there are people back home thinking about them and appreciating what they do.”
Stan White, deputy parade marshal for the Royal British Legion in Oxfordshire, said: “Our hearts go out to the relatives. They are not forgotten.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those ex-servicemen, standard bearers and the general public for attending the repatriations that come to Headley Way.”
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “The turnout at Headley Way and all along the repatriation route is fantastic – a real tribute to the Royal British Legion and their many supporters.”
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