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Students pay tribute to fallen soldiers

Sunderland College Students and staff, including Paul Wastell (second from left), with WO1 Karl Dewing holding the memorial plaque

Sunderland College students and staff have unveiled a plaque to commemorate the British troops who died in the Afghanistan conflict.

The wooden tribute was revealed during a memorial service held at the college to remember and honour the 453 armed forces personnel who lost their lives during the 13-year war.

Organised by the college’s Student Council and enrichment team, the service was held at Washington Campus on Tuesday and involved foundation learning, access, public services, sport, and health and social care students.

Seventeen-year-old Abbi Wilson, Student Council chair, said: “We felt it was important to show our respect for the people who died. So many people in the armed forces give up their lives for us, and the memorial service and plaque are symbols of how grateful we are to them.”

The students decided to organise the memorial service after hearing the experiences of their lecturer Paul Wastell, a former Royal Marine Commando, who served in Afghanistan and tragically lost several comrades in the war.

Paul, who served with 45 Commando in the first tour of Afghanistan in 2001, said: “The organisation of the event has been a tremendous effort by our students and I’m really proud of them.

“I lost quite a few friends who I served with and it was really poignant for me to remember them in this way. It was very shattering when I found out the lads had become casualties and I’ll never forget the time I spent with them.

“It was really fitting for the college and students to show their appreciation and to commemorate their lives. The service brought back a lot of memories for me and I think all of the students and myself felt a great deal of satisfaction by holding this event.”

WO1 Karl Dewing from the Royal Navy was guest of honour at the service, which was led by college chaplain Ros Chaplain and featured poems, readings, prayers by students and a solo performance of Ave Maria.

The students are also fundraising for Soldiers Off The Street, a charity dedicated to supporting homeless ex-service personnel, and have so far raised £200 through a sponsored Hadrian’s Wall walk, a staff and student football match and cake and craft stalls.

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