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Falklands veterans “are in our hearts daily” say islanders on Liberation Day

Veterans, families and VIPs gather in the shadow of the central memorial
14 June 2022
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Having given Falkland residents their freedom back 40 years ago, veterans were today granted the islands’ highest honour as anniversary commemorations reached their climax.

Every bearer of the South Atlantic Medal will always find “a home from home”, island leader assured the men and women of Operation Corporate as they bestowed the Freedom of the Falklands on them.

Islander Leona Roberts – aged just ten in 1982 and now a member of the Falklands government – fought back tears as she thanked veterans gathered at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire during simultaneous Liberation Day commemorations in the UK and South Atlantic, separated by 8,000 miles and two seasons.

June 14 is Liberation Day – a public holiday in the islands themselves – marking the surrender of Argentine forces and the end of a ten-week war which cost the lives of 255 British service personnel, three islanders and 649 Argentinians.

National services of commemoration were held simultaneously in the islands themselves and at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire – with a live link established between the two to connect events.

The rain and cold of a gloomy morning in Stanley – which is four hours behind the UK and where it is the equivalent of mid-December – contrasted sharply with the bright Staffordshire sunshine.

Sailors from HMS Forth – the Royal Navy’s permanent presence in the Falklands since the beginning of 2020 – joined Army and RAF colleagues and islanders at both a service in Stanley’s Christ Church Cathedral before laying wreaths at the Liberation Monument on the Island.

At the same time in Staffordshire, Prime Minister Boris Johnson led tributes to all those who ensured victory four decades ago during a ceremony organised by the Royal British Legion.

Royal Marine Lieutenant Colonel Gary Green - one of a handful of Falklands veterans still serving today - read out an account of the pivotal battle of Mount Harriet – one of the decisive clashes which opened the road to Stanley and led to the Argentine surrender.

In 1982 he was a 19-year-old signaller/radio operator in Kilo Company, 42 Commando, based then – and now – at Bickleigh outside Plymouth.

“The Falklands War was an experience I will never forget. Harsh conditions, survival, the move to Mount Kent and the attack on Mount Harriet have remained constant in my thoughts throughout my 42-year career in the Royal Marines.

“Forty years on, I remember the sacrifices made and those that did not return and, on this 40th anniversary of the war, I particularly think about the families that lost their loved ones.”

Those sacrifices are never lost on fellow islanders, Mrs Roberts told the select group of veterans, families, VIPs and serving personnel gathered below the central Armed Forces Memorial at the Arboretum.

“What the task force did for us in 1982 resonates in the hearts and minds of Falkland Islanders every day,” she said.

“The love that we feel and our gratitude for the sacrifices made, for the courage, dedication and professionalism shown in restoring the freedom of our islands is undiminished by the passage of time – and will never lessen.”

Turning to veterans directly, in a voice filled with emotion, she told them: “You will always have the warmest welcome, a family ready to help you and a home from home in the Falklands.”

Throughout music was provided by The Band of the Welsh Guards and a flypast made up of helicopters from across the Fleet Air Arm, Army and RAF helicopters flew overhead.

A Commando Merlin of 845 Naval Air Squadron, Commando Wildcat of 847 NAS, a maritime Merlin of 824 NAS and maritime Wildcat of 815 NAS all flew in memory of their predecessors which served with distinction in 1982.

The love that we feel and our gratitude for the sacrifices made, for the courage, dedication and professionalism shown in restoring the freedom of our islands is undiminished by the passage of time – and will never lessen

Leona Roberts, Falkland Islands Government

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