Every bearer of the South Atlantic Medal will always find “a home from home”, Falkland Islands lawmaker Leona Roberts assured the men and women of Operation Corporate as they bestowed the Freedom of the Falklands on them, on Turesday, 14 June. .
Member of the Legislative Assembly, MLA Leona Roberts – aged just ten in 1982, fought back tears as she thanked veterans gathered at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire during simultaneous Liberation Day commemorations in the UK and the South Atlantic.
June 14 is Liberation Day – a public holiday in the Islands – 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 Argentines.
National services of commemoration were held simultaneously in the Falkland Islands 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 June morning in Stanley, the equivalent of mid-December, contrasted sharply with the bright Staffordshire sunshine, but certainly not in enthusiasm.
In Staffordshire, Prime Minister Boris Johnson led tributes to all those who ensured victory four decades ago during a ceremony organized 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.
“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,” Colonel Green said
Those sacrifices are never lost on fellow Islanders, MLA Leon 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 fly past 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.