Mark Elder pictured during the Gulf War (Erskine/PA)
Two army veterans who served in Iraq have teamed up 20 years on from the conflict to work for an ex-service charity.
Nick O’Neill and Mark Elder completed multiple tours of Iraq among other armed conflicts including Bosnia and Northern Ireland, where they witnessed first-hand the physical and emotional toll that war can take on soldiers.
Both men used to drive tank transporters during their army days – with the former, at one stage, responsible for the upkeep of more than 2,500 vehicles.
Now the pair are working together again having both transferred their skills over from the army to Erskine to keep the charity’s fleet of vehicles moving.
In his role as transport and support service manager, Mr O’Neill leads a more modest fleet of 24 vehicles and a department of 15 staff while Mr Elder works alongside him as Erskine’s transport supervisor.
I just get a sense of achievement because I come from a background where I was always part of a team
The pair can often be seen taking residents of Erskine’s care homes out on day trips or driving veterans to and from hospital appointments.
Reflecting on their roles in the lead-up to this weekend’s Armed Forces Day, both men said there was no better way to honour current and former military personnel.
Mr O’Neill, 45, from Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, said: “The modern-day society that we live in today is because of the people who serve, many of which are residents at Erskine or under our care.
“It is thanks to them that we live in a free world, so while they are needing care, I am honoured to be a part of a team who are there for them when they require it most.
The Army is a brotherhood that is never lost, we are always looking out for one another, and we have carried that into our civilian lives
“Armed Forces Day is a reminder of everyone that we served alongside, and the residents that have come to Erskine throughout the years.
“Being able to play a part in this charity is amazing. Erskine is unique, and as veterans caring for veterans, there is no greater honour than to care for our heroes.
“I just get a sense of achievement because I come from a background where I was always part of a team.
“Having spent 22 years in the army the camaraderie is a massive thing for me and just to wander around the houses and spend time speaking to veterans and hearing their stories is amazing.
“It’s rewarding just to know that they acknowledge the current military’s respect for them. Times are different but the sort of things that you’ve had to face are very similar.
“Being away undertaking dangerous missions in hostile environments. That never changes. You know that remains the same”.
Mr Elder, 55, from Erskine, Renfrewshire, added: “Myself and Nick’s shared experiences in Iraq forged a bond that goes way beyond the battlefield.
“However, I can only thank him for bringing me to Erskine for the next chapter of my life.
“The Army is a brotherhood that is never lost, we are always looking out for one another, and we have carried that into our civilian lives.
“It is privilege to come together again on this occasion to honour our armed forces. Armed Forces Day represents the resilience and strength of our military community, and we are committed to ensuring that no veteran is left behind.
“Every day at Erskine, we see first-hand the care and support provided to veterans of all ages – from the Second World War to the Falklands, and more recent conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
“For that reason, I will never take for granted pulling on the Erskine uniform. It allows me to not only serve those who put their lives on the line, but also to ensure that they receive the quality of care and service that they richly deserve.”