A memorial to the UDR which has been six years in the making is finally to be officially unveiled next month.
A ceremony involving hundreds of former soldiers will parade through Ballymena to the granite and marble stone in the Co Antrim town’s Memorial Park.
Robert McClean, 63-year-old secretary of Ballymena UDR Association, estimated that about 300 participants will take part in the event on Sunday, April 3.
While he said he expects it may suffer the same fate which has befallen other memorials at the hands of vandals, he is hopeful it will be a reminder of the regiment’s role for generations to come.
“It’s taken about six years to get erected,” he said.
“And had it not been for mayor Billy Ashe [a DUP member of Mid and East Antrim council], it’d most likely have taken another six years.”
He credited him with helping to steer it through the council, adding that the whole enterprise has cost his group about £7,000, raised through donations.
Asked why he is doing it, he said: “There aren’t many others in Northern Ireland who know what was done, It’s to all who served. It’s a reminder of the sacrifices both male and female made.
“In the ‘70s, if it hadn’t been for the UDR, Ballymena would have been blown to pieces – as would other towns too.
“It’s just a way of saying ‘thank you’. It’s a permanent reminder.”
He said there are a lot of “twisted ideas” about the regiment, and that he would “be surprised if this memorial doesn’t get paint on it or a sledgehammer or something like that”.
However, he hopes it will still be there when children ask “in 50 years or 100 years time: Daddy, what was the UDR?”.
The parade will set out from Trostan Ave at 2.30pm.