As they prepare to bid a final farewell to Her Majesty The Queen on Monday, British veterans are reflecting on the eternal sacrifice of the late monarch’s service to the nation.
Countless retired soldiers and women proudly displayed their military honors as they queued to see the Queen’s coffin at Westminster Hall.
Many felt obliged to pay their respects.
“I came here with my Northern Ireland medal,” veteran Keith Walsh, who waited nearly 10 hours for Her Majesty’s coffin, told The Post. “I served in the army for five years and spent two years in Northern Ireland in the 80s.”
Walsh, 57, said he felt a deep sense of honor as he waited in line for most of Friday.
“For veterans, we knew her primarily as a boss. She was our boss – supreme commander of the armed forces. So there’s more than a nationality tie,” Walsh said.
“It is the service we offered her, we took an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, her heirs and successors and for most veterans that oath will last until the day you die. It’s more than respect — there’s that bond that we’ve served for them.”
“I will never forget their unwavering commitment to our country,” he added.
Westminster Hall opened its doors to the general public on Wednesday and will remain open 24 hours each day before closing at 6:30am local time on Monday, the day of Her Majesty’s State Funeral.
Every day since the queues began, thousands ignored warnings of endless waits as they patiently approached the landmark in a line that snaked around the center of the capital.
Some of the veterans reflecting on Her Majesty’s 70 year reign had the rare pleasure of meeting her.
Lieutenant-General Sir Andrew Gregory, who served in the British Army for 35 years, said meeting Her Majesty was something he would never forget.
Gregory, CEO of the Soldiers, Sailors, and Families Association, better known as SSAFA — a veterans’ charity patronized by Queen Elizabeth II, was one of the lucky few to have met the Queen a few times.
“She came to open our main office when she last officially visited the charity in 2013. Everyone remembers exactly where they were that day and what they were doing,” Gregory told the Post.
“Her Majesty’s commitment as Patron over the past 70 years has truly and truly inspired people. What she embodied – her service, her devotion, her commitment, her values - we would all like to have that.”
The Queen’s involvement with SSAFA dates back to her childhood, when she and her sister Princess Margaret supplied honey from their own beehives to the organization’s children’s home during World War II, Gregory said.
“When she married Prince Phillip in 1947, they presented some of their wedding gifts to SSAFA,” Gregory explained. “For example, a collection of Empire stamps was auctioned and the money went to charity.”
The organization helps over 70,000 veterans and their families each year.
But Gregory’s experience with the late monarch didn’t end there. As Master Gunner of St James’ Park – a post established in 1678 – Gregory was the 32nd person ever to hold the post.
“I had the privilege of meeting [the Queen] In that role, I had two audiences with her at Buckingham Palace,” he told the Post. “And on October 24, 2017 I had the honor of showing her around as she reviewed the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery who provided the gun carriage that transported Her Majesty’s coffin from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall.”
“As I walked her around, I was struck by her extraordinary ability to connect with young soldiers and their families and make them feel really important. That was the greatest privilege.”
“On Friday I spoke to the lead driver in this department who was terrified and deeply honored because he wanted to do the best he could,” revealed Gregory, who received two state awards; Companion of the Order of the Bath presented by Her Majesty in 2010 and Knight of the Order of the British Empire presented by Prince William, The Prince of Wales in 2016.
As Gregory prepares for Her Majesty’s state funeral on Monday, he tells the Post he will represent the Royal Regiment of Artillery at Westminster Abbey and will march in the procession from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch in front of Her Majesty’s coffin.
“We are all preparing our gear and getting as smart as we can and are determined to do our best for Her Majesty and His Majesty,” he said.
Working alongside him at SSAFA is Wing Commander Kirsty Bushell, who served in the Royal Air Force for 24 years.
During this time, Bushell met Her Majesty “on several occasions”.
“I was so proud to serve her,” she told the Post. “We all affirm that we serve the Queen and it’s that feeling of being part of a higher organization and not the side of government.”
Bushell recalled the “sense of anticipation and joy” she felt at Her Majesty’s visit.
“We felt valued and seen. Your patronage was so important. There was a real sense of awe when you met her – she listened very carefully and understood that she was creating a memory for us at the time,” said Bushell. “She was such a consistent, iconic and strong female leader.”
https://nypost.com/2022/09/18/queen-elizabeth-ii-veterans-applaud-late-monarchs-unwavering-dedication/ Veterans applaud late monarch’s ‘unwavering commitment’