The whole community must continue to remember the families of the Fallen of the Royal Irish Regiment and other security forces units throughout the entire year and not just at commemorations marking Remembrance Sunday, Armistice Day, leading North Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA, Mr Robin Swann, has urged.
Assemblyman Swann made his appeal after attending a parade in Ballymoney where the Freedom of the Borough was conferred on the RIR.
Mr Swann is also North Antrim UUP Chairman, Party Chief Whip and a member of the Stormont Committees on Agriculture and Culture.
He said the RIR parade and ceremony were “outstanding, very dignified and a very professional showpiece for the Regiment”.
He added: “The soldiers on parade were tremendous ambassadors for their Regiment. I also thank and commend the hundreds of people who turned out in Ballymoney to support the RIR.
“This conferral of the Freedom of the Borough on the RIR from Ballymoney Council was a natural progression from a similar conferral ceremony for the Regiment from Ballymena Council. I now call on Moyle District to complete this hat trick of conferrals for this valiant Regiment before the new council boundaries come into effect.”
The Ulster Unionist MLA also called on people throughout the constituency to remember the families of the Fallen in their thoughts and prayers well beyond the latest conferral ceremony and the traditional Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.
Mr Swann said while it was “very important to honour the memory of those in the Armed Forces who had made the supreme sacrifice for freedom and democracy”, it was equally important to remember the grieving families of those who had died.
“For them,” he added, “the suffering of losing loved ones continues throughout the year and not just on Freedom of the Borough conferrals, Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday.”
Specifically, Mr Swann said: “During my Assembly predecessor Rev Dr Robert Coulter’s time as Mayor of Ballymena in the 1990s, he had the privilege of representing the borough at the Somme Memorial in France.
“No one could fail to be moved emotionally walking along the rows of headstones bearing the names of those from Ulster who had made the supreme sacrifice.
“It was not just the tragedy of these young men who had died; there was also the enormous burden of suffering by the loved ones at home. It is also my intention to visit the Somme battlefield memorial, too.
“There are many alive in Northern Ireland today who lost family and friends in the carnage of the Great War. We should remember them, too,” added Mr Swann.
Mr Swann also said: “But we must also remember the families of those members of the Armed Forces who died in the Second World War, in subsequent conflicts, and especially those members of the security forces and civilians who were killed in more than three decades of Troubles in Northern Ireland.
“And we should not forget to pray for the safety of our gallant forces fighting with the Coalition in Afghanistan and in other overseas conflict in the war against international terrorism.
“There are many families throughout the constituency who have relatives, family friends or even know someone serving in these dangerous conflict zones.
“Equally, we should also especially remember those from the security forces who have been wounded in body and mind and left scarred for the remainder of their lives as a result of their service in Northern Ireland and in other conflict zones. Their families, too, must remain uppermost in our prayers.
“Similarly, we should remember the families of the innocent civilians who have been murdered by terrorists during the Troubles.
“Marking Freedom ceremonies, commemorating Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day also brings to mind the Poppy Day Massacre in Enniskillen, the workmen who were killed at Teebane and Kingsmills, the Shankill Road bombing; the carnage of Omagh, Bloody Friday other places throughout the country,” said Assemblyman Swann.