Jacqui Thompson tragically lost her husband of over 20 years and father to their 5 daughters, Senior Aircraftman Gary Thompson, due to an Improvised Explosive Device explosion in Afghanistan on 13 April 2008.
Here she takes time to reflect on what the Bastion Memorial rededication on 11 June means to her…
It’s a little over seven years since we lost Gary, and to be honest, the sense of loss grows with each day.
Gary was a Reservist at RAF Cottesmore and I didn’t really know many details about this side of his life. But when I think of him in this role, I can’t help but think of all of our incredibly brave Servicemen and women.
That’s why memorial and remembrance services are so important to me. It gives me the chance to show my immense pride and respect for Gary and all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
I will find the Bastion Memorial rededication hard. My biggest struggle is that I wasn’t there for Gary’s final moments. I didn’t get to hold him, I never got to say goodbye. After twenty years of cuddles and holding hands wherever we went, all I wanted was to hug him and hold his hand for his final journey.
I feel so blessed to have had someone as remarkable as Gary in my life. He gave me 5 beautiful children, over 20 years of hugs and smiles and a lifetime of happy memories. It’s our wonderful memories of life with Gary that helps the girls and I to cope with life without him.
It means a lot that it was the serving personnel who built the original memorial at Camp Bastion. The new memorial physically represents just how much Gary and all our fallen heroes meant to everyone in Afghanistan and at home. It reminds us that they were never alone and that their friends were there with them until the very end.
There isn’t a more fitting place for the memorial’s final resting place. The National Memorial Arboretum is such an incredibly special place. Each time I visit I see the care and pride taken by all to ensure that it remains a fitting and honorable tribute, dedicated to all our heroes who sacrificed so much. Most of all, it makes sure that Gary, and all the other brave Servicemen and women are never forgotten.