“It’s there to commemorate everyone” – Former Royal Marine on the Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial

Former Royal Marine Commando Pete Dunning tells The Royal British Legion what it was like to be at the unveiling of the Iraq and Afghan Memorial.

Pete served two tours in Afghanistan. On both he was the driver and commander of an armoured personnel carrier, providing support for the infantry.

“I first heard about the memorial when I was invited to the unveiling by the Legion,” says Pete, “Being up North and looking after two small kids means we don’t have much time to read the news.

Pete in Horse Guards Parade before the service begins.

“The nice thing about the memorial is that it isn’t just about the military, it’s about the civilians as well and it’s there to commemorate all those who worked in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s not just remembering those who unfortunately died. It’s remembering everyone who went, whether they came back minus a few limbs, like myself, or not. It’s there to commemorate everyone who served.”

Duty and Service

“When I was in the military it was pretty simple. My duty was doing my job, doing my service to my Queen and country.

“I loved my time in Afghanistan because I was doing the job I’d trained for to the full extent. I’d trained for 32 weeks of basic training and then gone on to do specialisation training as well, so to do all that and then have to sit on UK soil and not do anything would have been unthinkable.

"That’s a duty as a human being, to help out other humans because at the end of the day we’re all equal.”

“For the civilian side, I think that duty has a different context. It’s when people are putting themselves before others, as they’re the ones going out to war torn countries and trying to help people as best they can. That’s a duty as a human being, to help out other humans because at the end of the day we’re all equal.”

The unveiling

“The stand out memory from the service was the reading that Prince Harry gave. I know that the wife liked it because she’s’ got a thing for him.

“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot”
Extract from the reading given by Prince Harry at the Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial Service

“Prince Harry giving the reading gave it more emphasis. He’s been in conflict; been there, done that, got the t-shirt and he’s got the medal to prove it. It gave it more poignancy.

Pete talks with HRH Prince William at the reception after the service.

“It was lovely to have the Queen there. The amount of work she does is amazing, and for her to attend made the day even more special.

“The Royal Marines marching band was there as well; I always love to hear them so that was a lovely experience.”

The memorial

“Seeing the memorial for the first time, I was struck by the contrast between the bronze medallion and the stones either side of it. It was sort of like a coin, with the military and civilian being two sides of it. That really emphasised for me how it wasn’t just about the military but about the civilians as well. I thought Paul Day did a brilliant job in designing it.”

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