Each year on St. George’s Day, International Veteran’s Day is commemorated as part of the month long San Cristobal celebrations in Torrevieja. 2010 marked the event’s forth year, which has seen Veteran’s Day grow from a smallish gathering in the Park of Nations to its present form, which on Friday attracted thousands of visitors to Torrevieja’s seafront on Friday.

The term ‘Veteran’ includes all former members of the armed forces, their widows/widowers, their dependants plus those involved in various conflicts as part of the merchant navy, freedom fighters, support groups and those whom played a vital role in legally defined military operations. In total, over 10-million people have connections to the armed forces in the UK alone.

This year’s event was organised by the President of the International Veteran’s Day, Terry Watson with Event Coordinator Dick Conway and his team setting up for the occasion at five in the morning,. Although the entertainment program had to be cancelled due to a downpour, from about 1800-hrs visitors were treated to static displays from the UME, Army and Navy, a demonstration on how the UME rescue trapped victims from car crashes plus dog handlers and their search dogs, some of which have recently served in Earthquake Zones, displaying their agility and other skills to an appreciative audience.

Torrevieja International Veterans Day

Throughout the day, groups of pensioners and local school children visited the Spanish Naval Patrol Boat, ‘Serviola P-71’ and received a ‘baptism of the sea’. These oceanic patrol ships were commissioned by the Spanish Navy in 1991 and 1992 and built in Bazan Ferrol, Spain. The presence of the ship was partly due to the 2009 event, which was attended by the Chief of the Spanish Navy, Admiral General Manuel Rebollo Garcia, who was awarded the appointment of Knight of St. Christopher, last year.

The event has grown in stature since 2006 and this year’s guest of honour was Lieutenant General José Emilio Roldan Pascual who is head of the Unidad Militar de Emergencias (UME) a specially trained army unit of almost 4,000 personnel who are on call to help deal with major disasters such as floods, forest fires and most recently, earthquakes. Over 40 UME personnel were in attendance along with a selection of their special equipment including trucks, personnel carriers, motorbikes, a Hummer and support vehicles for the Dakar Rally.

Lt General Roldan was introduced to each department of the UME and Military Units in the presence of Terry Watson, President of the International Veterans, Torrevieja’s Honorary Swedish Consul Enrique Lorca Gambin, Graham Knight, Director of the Foreign Resident’s Office plus Councillors Eduardo Gil Rebollo and Antonio Marin. The distinguished guests spent time onboard the Pascual Flores where they watched a sub aqua unit recover a heavy anchor and chain that had been resting on the harbour floor for many years.

As is customary in Spain, with the sun setting, wreaths were laid as a tribute to the fallen, the National Anthem played while the Spanish Flag was lowered followed by a march past by Veterans from the Spanish Legionnaires and the RNA, RMA, RAFA, and RBL in front of Lt General Roldan.

This was a solemn day of remembrance for all of those in attendance but especially appreciated by the mainly Spanish visitors who were impressed and moved by the professionalism of the British Veterans; most of whom had never seen such a parade before. The visitors applauded and showed their appreciation for the pride shown and the way they integrated with their own Spanish forces. For more information on the activities of the Torrevieja International Veterans, please contact Terry Watson by email at: soapy0709@hotmail.com.

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