On Thursday a service of rededication was held at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to pay tribute to those killed during the 13-year campaign. The reconstructed Bastion Memorial is based on the same design as the former Bastion Memorial Wall built in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, which was deconstructed in late 2014 following the end of combat operations.
RAF Benevolent Fund Ambassador Jacqui Thompson attended to remember her husband Gary who was killed while serving with the RAF Regiment in Afghanistan. In this guest blog she describes the day.
I haven't felt like that since the day they told me Gary had been killed. I go to all these events and I know what they are all about. I go to pay my respects to Gary the soldier and all the other brave souls who did not come home.
When I heard Gary had been killed one of the worst things for me was that I was not there. I was not with him, he was thousands of miles away. I know the lads would have taken care of him but it wouldn't have been the same as someone who loved him.
This memorial means so much because it was not designed by sculptors or artists it was the blood and sweat of Gary's fellow soldiers and people out there who built it. I just kept looking at that wall and I was thinking 'he was in good hands, people did care about him'.
I think what hit home was I know they say they are names on a plaque but they are not to me, I just see sparkling, charming individuals who gave so much and there is a lifetime of family who will always love and remember them.
Prince Harry's speech reinforced everything. He talked about how important it was to the soldiers. He was a soldier, he was one of the boys. He spoke as Harry the soldier, paying his respects as much as anyone else was and that meant a lot to everyone.
Gary would have been proud as punch to be part of that day. He loved military history and visiting war memorials. I spoke to families who are so proud of their loved ones but underneath that I know there is a heartbreak and sadness that will never go away. The memorial is somewhere I will go and take the grandchildren and tell them all about Gary.
The service was very poignant to me because of what it meant. The memorial was made by soldiers for soldiers. It was a reinforcement that Gary was really cared about, as all of them were.