A Co Antrim teenager whose grandfather served with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the Ulster Defence Regiment has stressed the importance of today’s Armed Forces Day events in Coleraine.
Athena Dunlop, a cadet first class with the Portrush Sea Cadets, said “it’s important for people to recognise the sacrifices made by veterans and serving armed forces personnel.”
The 16-year-old GCSE student recently took part in a photoshoot to help promote Armed Forces Day, which will see thousands of people flock to Coleraine for a day of parades, pageantry, live music and free entertainment.
Athena’s grandfather, 78-year-old Ronnie Dunlop, was a corporal in the Royal Iniskillings and UDR. He saw active service in Kenya, Suez, Cyprus and Northern Ireland.
The Royal British Legion member is among the many veterans hoping to be at today’s celebrations.
Mark Dunlop, Athena’s father, is a sergeant within the Royal Marines Cadet Detachment based at the Portrush Sea Cadet unit.
Her mum Dawn is a petty officer within the Sea Cadets unit, and sister Iona, 15, is also a cadet first class in the Sea Cadets.
“It’s very much a family affair for us,” Mark explained.
“Armed Forces Day is a great event and it’s very important to give recognition to both serving troops and to veterans,” he added.
The Armed Forces Day regional showcase, compered by well-known television personality Paul Clark, will open with a celebratory parade through the town centre at 11am featuring service members, veterans, cadets, military bands and the Royal British Legion. It will follow a route from Coleraine Leisure Centre before arriving at the Diamond for a Drumhead Service at 11.30am.
The first gun salute of the day will ring out at noon when one round will signal the start of a packed afternoon of activities in Christie Park, on the River Bann and throughout the town centre.
One of the main attractions will be the 62-tonne Challenger 2, one of the army’s most impressive battle tanks, which will be on display in Christie Park. Other displays sure to draw the crowds will include the Royal Navy’s P2000 vessel, which will be on the River Bann, and a performance by the Silver Stars Parachute Display Team.
Crowds will also be able to enjoy live music throughout the day.
Among those performing will be the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Dragoon Guards, Drums and Pipes of the First Irish Guards and the renowned Band of the Royal Marines, who will perform the ‘Beating Retreat’ at 4:30pm.
The event will conclude with the Rhythm of the Bann music and dance festival.