A former soldier from Preston, Lancashire, has received the only service medal he was entitled to … 42 years late.****
Joe McKenna, 72, left the Army in 1970 just months before his Northern Ireland service medal was minted but never claimed it. Today he said: “It’s the best Christmas present ever and it makes me very proud.”
Joe, who volunteers at The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment Lancashire Infantry Museum in Preston, decided to track down his medal after years of attending parades where he was the only veteran not wearing one. Sergeant Major Bob Dixon, of Force Support Squadron, 2 Medical Regiment, also volunteers at the museum and offered to help Joe claim his honour.
Bob said: “I had been helping some people who came into the museum with enquiries about their service medals and so I offered to help Joe too. I got all the paperwork together, went around to his house and we filled in the documents before sending them off to the MOD Medal Office. We got a reply within two months, the quickest I’ve ever known; I think the turnaround was so fast because he still lives at the same address that appeared on his service papers back in 1970.”
Joe enlisted with The Loyal Regiment, a forebear to the North West’s current Infantry Regiment The Duke of Lancaster’s, almost exactly 51 years ago and served in Kenya, Swaziland, Cyprus, Malta as well as Northern Ireland.
A lot happened to Joe after he left the Army as a Lance Corporal in 1970: he worked for more than 30 years as an HGV driver, he was married to Josie, the couple had two children Sandra and Peter, and they now have five grandchildren.
Joe said until recently the distractions of day to day life meant he just never got around to claiming what was his: “It was only when I was marching at the Armed Forces Day Parade in Preston last summer when I thought ‘I am getting on a bit now and I should really get my medal’. I think my son would like to have it when I am gone, he and my daughter think that it is marvellous that it’s finally here.”
Joe’s wife Josie added: “It really was something special to see his face when he received the medal; it was as if all his Christmases had come at once.”
Joe now plans to wear his medal at his Regiment’s Kimberley Day Service and Parade in Preston on February 13, 2013.