Plans to build Telford trail honouring veterans
Plans are being drawn up to create a "veterans' trail" in Telford which could see the town park become a mecca for veterans and their families and friends.
The granite stones, each inscribed with the name and service details of a particular past or present member of the armed forces, would provide a permanent celebration of their contribution.
The idea for a Telford trail is the brainchild of Erica Hanson-McKenzie, of Ketley Bank, although her inspiration has come from a similar scheme in Sunderland.
She was herself in the Army for nine years, serving tours in Bosnia and Northern Ireland. She especially wants to raise the public profile of the modern generation who have served Queen and country.
Erica came up with it when Telford & Wrekin Council was seeking ideas for the 50th birthday celebrations for Telford last year, having seen the Sunderland scheme on Facebook.
"I thought, why not have one on our doorstep?" said Erica, a former Corporal in the Royal Logistic Corps.
"I loved the concept, that veterans of all ages have somewhere to go to see that their service was being celebrated."
A committee is now being formed to take the Telford scheme forward and a stonemason from Market Drayton is also on board.
"The site where it will go is the war memorial at Telford town park. We are hoping to be up and running by Armed Forces Day next year. We are looking for a website designer to give up their time to create a website for us."
She has also sent letters to seek support from local companies, perhaps through sponsorship which would bring down the cost of the stones.
Anyone who can help can contact her through firstname.lastname@example.org by email. The group is also on Facebook.
Under the scheme people will buy the stones, which measure about 12ins by 9ins by 5ins, perhaps as a gift, or as a lasting memorial. Early indications are that they would cost around the £200 mark, with the price including a donation to the Royal British Legion and veterans' charities.
The stone is then inscribed with the details of the special person being honoured – their name, rank, unit, and dates of service, service number, and regimental cap badge or emblem of the appropriate service.
"This is a non profit organisation run by volunteers, which is supported by the Telford Centre Rotary Club, Royal British Legion and Telford & Wrekin Council," said Erica, whose husband Nicholas, known as Mac, is serving in the Royal Logistic Corps.
"We are celebrating people's service, whether they are serving, have served, or have passed on. We want to make a walk in Telford town park where people can come to reflect or celebrate a veteran at any time of the year.
"We want to show that veterans can be young soldiers, ex-soldiers, women, giving it more of a general appeal than the lovely old men we honour on November 11. We need to tell people there are young guys and girls serving, and bring them into the spotlight."
The scheme is in its early days but Erica says anybody, anywhere, will be able to buy a stone to include in the Telford trail.
"In Sunderland they have been coming from all over the country to see it. Telford council seems to take the Covenant really seriously and I think it would be great for veterans to see that Telford is a great place to go if you are a veteran, and that there is something to see as well," added Erica, who came to Telford from Preston in 2010.