THE community spirit of South Lakeland shone through the autumn gloom this week as thousands turned out to honour Kendal soldier Ryan Ward, whose military funeral was held at Kendal Parish Church on Monday.
The service and subsequent procession of the 20-year-old’s coffin through the town centre added real poignancy to this year’s Remembrance commemorations.
That so many people lined the streets to show their solidarity with Ryan’s grieving family and his army colleagues is a proud testament to the town.
Like the Remembrance parades around the district the day before, affording such respect shows how we truly value our armed forces.
In this regard, the turnout in Kendal - despite persistent rain - reflected the grief of a community who felt they had lost one of their own.
The sad thing is, there are likely to be many more such communal demonstrations of grief at military funerals around the UK in the next two years before our troops complete their planned withdrawal from Afghanistan.
By that time we will have been in conflict in that war-torn state for 50 per cent longer than the two world wars combined.
Whether we see it as symbolic or ironic, it is certainly an interesting observation that we will finally withdraw from Afghanistan 100 years after the start of World War One - the conflict that sparked the annual Remembrance devotions which continue to bring communities together every November.
Community spirit can be demonstrated in different ways, of course, and another example of it in South Lakeland can be seen in the response of Westmorland Gazette readers to the first few days of our Wheels for Will Appeal.
This has been nothing short of amazing. Within hours of the paper hitting the streets, cheques were being dropped off at the Gazette offices to help us raise the £25,000 needed to buy a specially adapted off-road quad bike, which will help the former fellrunner Will Clark regain the freedom of his beloved fells.
At we went to press yesterday, more than £3,250 had been donated. A fantastic communal effort!