Royal Star & Garter’s Senior Marketing & Communications Manager Michelle Danks had the opportunity to march with veterans from our Surbiton and High Wycombe Homes at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. Here, she explains why it was an experience that she will always value.
I boarded the train at Twickenham at 8am and was immediately surprised to see the carriage full of veterans. Waterloo was incredibly busy and there were many families saying their goodbyes to their partners and parents as they headed off to the National Service. The emotional significance of the day for both those who served and their families was clear to see on their faces.
Walking to the meeting point on Horse Guards Parade, I couldn’t help but marvel at the sheer volume of veterans, the array of medals and variety of berets.
Residents from our High Wycombe Home had already arrived when I got there. It had been a very early start for them but they were just delighted to be there. One gentleman, Michael, who lives with dementia, sat looking at all of the buildings and all of the other veterans, taking it all in. His daughter explained that the sights and sounds were evoking so many memories for him. He remembered seeing Queen Elizabeth II and working at the Ministry of Defence. His daughter explained to me how special it was that they could both be there together to create shared memories that they could talk about later.
Residents from our Surbiton Home were the next to arrive. They included Connie, who signed up when she was 17 and served in the Royal Navy. She, like so many other residents we care for, wanted to serve her country. It made me think of the many veterans I have met over the years at Royal Star & Garter. I have been fortunate to hear so many of their stories of bravery and sacrifice. They are always so humble and share that unique bond of service to country with their comrades.
The challenge of having our residents at the National Service and marching past the Cenotaph is not to be underestimated. The Homes’ Care teams did an amazing job managing the logistics to make it all happen and to ensure residents were well looked-after the whole way through. The close bond between carers and residents was so clear to see, it was a shared experience in every sense of the word.
We all stood together to sing the national anthem to our new King, the poignancy of this year in particular on the minds of many. At 11am the parade fell silent for the two-minute silence. We began the march, remembering all of those who lost their lives, and we laid our wreathes at the Cenotaph. It’s difficult to describe the range of emotions you feel, it’s quite overwhelming. We continued the march, passing all the crowds watching, cheering and saying thank you. The look on our residents’ faces as they realized people were shouting for them was so special, you could see how much it meant to them.
As we came to the end of the march, I asked what it had meant to our residents. Vera said she was completely overwhelmed, it had been so special for her. Connie couldn’t put it into words but her smile said it all as she held the hand of Thomas, her carer. Michael and his daughter stood together looking at the sights, with the experience of the march combined with other memories returning of times gone by. It was an experience they would cherish.
To share this day with the veterans we care for and all of those who marched was a privilege and I will value it for the rest of my life.