This week I helped unveil a memorial plaque at The Cooper Gallery, it shows the names of those former pupils from Holgate School who were killed in WW1. The names of the fallen were read out by pupils from Horizon Community College. I found this incredibly moving. It made all of us who were there, pause and reflect on the sacrifice that those young Barnsley men had made – nearly 100 years ago.
It also made me think about my own service. Five years ago I was deployed in Afghanistan. It was at a time when the level of threat was very high. Looking back I think that they were the worst of times, but they were also the best of times. That sense of camaraderie, of placing your life and trust in others, of being part of a team. Despite the danger, the fear, I am proud that I had the opportunity to serve.
Those experiences shaped me, they make me who I am, and never a day goes by when I don't think about the risks that we took – the sacrifices that were made. I hope they will have been worth it.
I'll be thinking about this when stood at the War Memorial at the Town Hall on Remembrance Sunday. I’ll be thinking about those who have fallen and have made the ultimate sacrifice. I will also be thinking about their families; and I will have in my mind the families of David Marsh of The Royal Marines, Martin Driver of The Royal Anglian Regiment and Matthew Thornton of The Yorkshire Regiment. Three more young Barnsley men who have recently lost their lives in conflict. I’ve had the privilege of meeting all of their families. I found the dignity and the stoicism with which they have dealt with their loss to be both humbling and inspiring. Together we will ensure that David, Martin and Matthew will never be forgotten.
Next week we will greet The Light Dragoons with a homecoming parade through the Town centre. I'm sure the people of Barnsley will turn out to welcome them back from what has been a very tough tour of Afghanistan. It’s right that we do so and it will mean a huge amount to those who have served that despite what we might think about the conflict, we support those who have served on our behalf.
This article was first published in the Barnsley Chronicle on 9th November 2012.