AS people paid their respects to those who lost their lives in service of their country, the poignancy of an Armistice Day parade held special significance for one particular soldier.
For Private Paul Gibbons, it was the first time he had returned home to Earlestown since he was injured in Afghanistan, weeks after six of his friends were killed after their vehicle hit an IED in March.
The 25-year-old from Corunna Company 3 Yorks was also travelling in an armoured vehicle when it struck an explosive.
His wife Jude thanked Earlestown councillor Seve Gomez-Aspron, who contacted Pte Gibbons’ regiment, to organise the trip, so Pte Gibbons could march in the parade.
She described Paul, who is currently stationed at Battlesbury Barracks in Warminster, as a “modest” man who was the brains behind a Facebook page, which kept the families of servicemen and women in touch with events in Afghanistan.
Speaking to the Star before the parade, she said: “A week after his friends were killed (including Private Daniel Wade from Warrington), he was blown up as well. This time the Warrior vehicle did its job. He suffered nerve damage to his hand and back, but he’s ok.
“He’s not quite back to full duties.”
With the death of six of his friends, Jude explained that his company had suffered the biggest single loss of life in Afghanistan.
She added: “He was particularly good mates with Daniel Wade, but knew all of them well. But he had to crack on; he’ll tell you that himself. If they don’t those lads died for nothing.
“And I know Daniel’s fiancée and new born daughter will be there to watch him march.
“The people of Earlestown have been right behind him. Rosie’s Bar has been a help and people have sent him parcels, including a lovely old dear who sent him something every week.”
Jude unveiled Paul as the creator of the Facebook page Pte Oonagh Bear. With more than 800 fans, it allows family members back home to pass messages to their loved ones.
She said: “Everyone knows him as Gibbo, but don’t realise it’s him behind the site.
“Families get in touch and ask if they can get in touch with their son.
“He would update the page every morning and it became more reliable than the newspaper.
“If you look at the site and see how hard he works on it, he deserves some credit.
“He was nominated for a Pride of Britain award, but Paul said ‘no, someone else is more deserving’.”