Iraq veteran wears uniform for last time

PUBLISHED: 09:33 14 November 2006 | UPDATED: 22:22 28 May 2010

ROB McNeill marched proudly with war veterans on Sunday wearing his police uniform for the last time along with his Iraq Campaign Medal with Clasp. And the 40-year-old Cambridgeshire policeman who is still battling to overcome horrific injuries sustained

ROB McNeill marched proudly with war veterans on Sunday wearing his police uniform for the last time along with his Iraq Campaign Medal with Clasp.

And the 40-year-old Cambridgeshire policeman who is still battling to overcome horrific injuries sustained three years ago in Iraq says he has no regrets about his time in the war zone.

He said: "These things happen and it is no good me sitting at home moaning about it, that doesn't help anyone."

The parade in Whittlesey was a time for Pc McNeill to remember his friends who died in the war-torn country and reflect on what lies ahead when he leaves the police force next month after 15 years service.

He is unable to return to his much-loved job with Cambridgeshire Police after suffering the head injury while deployed with the Territorial Army as a firearms instructor at the police training academy near Basra.

During a training exercise, the 6ft tall former community beat manager at March, scalped his head on an air conditioning unit. He has undergone intensive treatment at the National Head Injury Clinic in Northampton but has been left with problems, including short term memory loss, which make it impossible for him to continue with his police career.

He was the only serving Cambridgeshire police officer to be deployed in Iraq and was rewarded for his bravery by the military when he was presented with the campaign medal by the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire High Duberly.

Mr McNeill of Queen Street, Whittlesey, said: "I will be leaving the police on December 10 because I am unable to fulfil my duties as a police officer. I am very disappointed because I have enjoyed my career but what can I do?"

Does he have any regrets about going out to Iraq? "Not at all. You cannot foresee what will happen. Everything happens for a reason and when one door closes another one opens."

He believes he and others did make a huge difference to ordinary people in Iraq. Communicating between the army and local people, he helped complete rapid assessment needs, getting water and rebuilding the infrastructure.

On Sunday he was watched by his wife, Lucie, and 20-month-old son Luca, as he marched wearing his police uniform with military beret. His family have been a great support to him since the accident.

Before the parade, he said: "I decided to do this myself because it is the only time I will be able to wear the medal with my uniform. It is very special for me. I lost a couple of friends while I was out there and it is a time to remember them."

What does the future hold? He said: "I am still undergoing treatment but I am getting there. I am open to suggestions but it must be something which is right for me and my family.

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