Iraq and Afghan veterans Mark and Donna Stonelake

Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial unveiling – “I’m proud of what we did out there”

Husband and wife Mark and Donna saw action in Afghanistan and Iraq respectively. They talk to us about what the memorial means and why it’s important.

Donna Stonelake served on the HMS Montrose as an Able Rating during the Iraq campaign, whilst her husband Mark is a former Army commando who was injured in Afghanistan.

The Iraq and Afghan memorial honours both the UK Armed Forces and civilians who served their country in the Gulf region, Iraq and Afghanistan, and who supported them back home, from 1990-2015.

Iraq and Afghan Veterans Mark and Donna in military uniforms.

Mark and Donna in 2010 with their daughter Grace.

A shared experience

The unveiling of the first memorial in London for the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns is a special moment not just for them, but for all those that were involved in some way in those campaigns.

“I think it’s more meaningful combining both the Iraq and Afghan wars,” says Mark.

“To be able to walk down with people who have been in similar situations as yourself, it’s going to be nice experiencing that all together on such a special occasion.”

“You share that comradery between each part of the military.”

For both Mark and Donna, the focus is on the shared experiences. Something that is particularly important as the memorial recognises both military and civilians contributions.

“Mark was in the Army, I was in the Navy,” says Donna, “but you share that comradery between each part of the military.”

Memories of service

“Basically my role in Afghanistan was to show presence on the ground,” says Mark, “To let the Afghan people know that they’re not on their own in this war on terror.

“I’m proud of what we did out there, trying to go out and help others in need. If I had the option, I’d do it all again. It’s just thinking about others and trying to do what you can.”

Mark and Donna have both left the military to focus on raising their three daughters, but their experiences from serving are still with them.

“You form close bonds with people,” says Donna.

“You’re away from home and confined to the ship. You do form close friendships. Even though quite a lot of us have left the forces now we still keep in touch.”

Iraq and Afghan veterans Mark and Donna with their daughters.

Mark and Donna at home with their daughters.

The unveiling

The memorial gives equal prominence to the civilian and military contributions. It consists of two large stone monoliths supporting a bronze medallion. The two-sided medallion has sculpted reliefs depicting the memorial’s theme of ‘duty and service’.

It will be unveiled in Victoria Embankment Gardens on the 9 March, following a service of dedication on Horse Guards Parade.

“The memorial reiterates how proud Britain is of our serving soldiers and civilian personnel.”

“The way I’m looking at it,” says Mark, “the memorial is for anyone who has served, anyone who was injured and anyone who has paid the ultimate price in service to their country.”

“It shows how important the memorial is, with the Queen and the Royal Family there. It reiterates how proud Britain is of our serving soldiers and civilian personnel.

“The conflicts went on for such a long time and so many people across Britain have been affected by it. I think that everyone knows someone that served or someone that’s been over there.”

Follow the unveiling

The Legion will be at the unveiling on the 9 March. Follow us on Twitter for updates.

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