Gulf War veteran in Leeds to receive British Empire Medal in New Year's Honours for voluntary work

An inspirational Gulf War veteran discovered he was to receive a British Empire Medal (BEM) as his wife surprised him with a letter from the Cabinet Office.
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Darren Walker, who lives in Rodley, was named among the recipients of the prestigious award in the New Year’s Honours list, which was published on December 29.

The 57-year-old served in the British Army as a medic and bandsman – and is being recognised for his voluntary services in Leeds.

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He said he was “gobsmacked” when his wife Rachel handed him a letter with the news, before filming his stunned reaction.

Gulf War veteran Darren Walker, 57, a former army bandsman, will be awarded a British Empire Medal for his services to volunteering in Leeds.Gulf War veteran Darren Walker, 57, a former army bandsman, will be awarded a British Empire Medal for his services to volunteering in Leeds.
Gulf War veteran Darren Walker, 57, a former army bandsman, will be awarded a British Empire Medal for his services to volunteering in Leeds.

“I was I was amazed I’d been put forward and was quite taken aback that there was all of this information about me,” he said. “To see everything written down is quite amazing.

“My wife did it all with me. It’s a shame we can’t cut the medal in half and share it. We always do everything as a team.”

Mr Walker served in the 14th/20th King’s Hussars, with which he played trombone in the band. He was deployed as a medic to the front line during the Gulf War.

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His incredible work in the community and selfless attitude to volunteering comes despite suffering illness in the years since returning from service.

Mr Walker helped to raise more than £27,000 for a memorial to his fallen comrades of the King’s Hussars, which now stands proudly at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire.Mr Walker helped to raise more than £27,000 for a memorial to his fallen comrades of the King’s Hussars, which now stands proudly at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire.
Mr Walker helped to raise more than £27,000 for a memorial to his fallen comrades of the King’s Hussars, which now stands proudly at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire.

As a former army bandsman and a passionate bugler, he was aware that his local RAF cadet squadron didn’t have a band – so became determined to form one. Not only did he succeed in that, he also helped young people in training them up to a high level, with many going on to achieve music qualifications.

Over the last five years, the band has performed at Remembrance Services, concerts and charity fundraisers.

Mr Walker said he is motivated by seeing the confidence young people gain by taking part in activities like the band and Air Cadets.

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“Seeing the kids accomplish something really gives us a buzz. They pick up so many skills, and many of them return as instructors – because they’ve been taught about the importance of giving back.”

Another of Mr Walker’s proudest achievements is his success in raising more than £27,000 for a memorial to his fallen comrades of the King’s Hussars. He sold handmade models, held countless raffles and busked outside shops in all weathers to raise the money. The memorial now stands proudly at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire.

As well as this, he has volunteered with the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal, helped with initiatives for homeless people, and worked with the local rotary club to deliver hot meals to elderly people who live alone on Christmas Day.

Mr Walker can expect to receive his BEM from the Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire as part of a special ceremony later this year.

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