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Graham Jones, Falklands Veteran, Prepares To Make Return To The Islands

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One of the youngest Royal Marines to take part in the Falklands conflict is preparing to make his first return to the islands on the 30th anniversary of the war.

Graham Jones, 47, is part of a group of ex-servicemen who will travel to the South Atlantic next month to take part in the Stanley Marathon.

Their aim is pay homage to those who died in the Falklands and raise money to support British veterans of all conflicts.

Mr Jones, now a police constable and dog handler for Cheshire Police, was just 17 when his Commando unit was mobilised following Argentina's invasion in April 1982.

The father-of-three, from Ellesmere Port, said: "We were supposed to be going on leave but the Royal Navy Police stopped us at the gate and told us we were going to the Falklands.

"My initial reaction was 'Why Scotland?'"

After learning the true whereabouts of the Falklands, Mr Jones was told he was too young to join his colleagues on the UK Task Force which was being assembled to re-take the islands.

"It was a great disappointment for me because during the following days I saw a lot of my friends packing all their kit away and getting ready for what we now knew was going to be a conflict," he said.

"But luckily, because I was coming up to 17-and-three-quarters, they ultimately decided I was eligible to follow my mates down there."

Once on the islands, he was part of the headquarters' defence section and assigned to defend key military personnel.

The Falklands were retaken by British troops following a 74-day war which cost the lives of 258 British servicemen and 649 from Argentina.

Mr Jones, a member of the North Wales Royal Marines Association, said the experience left him proud but with painful memories of the loss of friends and colleagues.

He is now involved in a veterans' mental health forum with the Countess of Chester Hospital which works to improve the care provided to veterans when they return from conflict zones.

"It's a real issue and something that I've got great interest in, especially in the job I do as a police officer," he said.

"I've encountered many ex-servicemen who haven't been able to cope with conflicts and, later, with return to civilian life.

"So they need support when they leave the forces."

It is for this reason that he is joining former colleagues for the Stanley Marathon - his first marathon in 22 years - to raise money for the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund and the Royal British Legion.

Mr Jones said: "Because it's the 30th anniversary this year, we thought it would be good to combine raising money for today's veterans with a visit to the islands so we can mark the anniversary ourselves."

As well as the marathon, on March 18, the group will return to battle sites and pay their respects at the Falklands' memorials to the fallen.

The marathon starts and finishes overlooking Stanley Harbour and runs through the airport and around Sappers Hill.

Donations can be made at www.bmycharity.com/falklandsmarathon

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