Poppyscotland’s Bud truck is heading to the Borders
Since being elected in 2012, Scottish Borders Councillor John Greenwell has not only served his constituents well.
He has also been the council’s armed forces and veterans champion.
It was an ideal fit for John, who served in the army’s King’s Royal Hussars for 22 years and spent a further ten years on the long service list.
The former warrant officer class two worked in admin posts all over the world – and he and his wife Kath and oldest son Matthew (42) also welcomed a new addition to their family.
John recalled: “It was like a second career within the forces. In Holland, I ran a NATO club for around 1000 members and in Belize I ran the garrison officers’ mess.
“My wife, Kath, and I also adopted our youngest son, Dion (32), in Belize.”
John, who lives in Coldstream, has never been one for putting his feet up and has relished not only representing people in Mid-Berwickshire but also championing the armed forces and veterans.
In that role, he chairs monthly Firm Base meetings in council headquarters with representatives of forces and veterans charities from the Borders and further afield.
He is also responsible for organising the council’s Armed Forces Day flag-raising ceremony, which this year takes place on Monday, June 24, at 9.30am, also at the council’s HQ.
Each year, he tries to bring a different flavour to the event.
He explained: “In 2008, the council signed up to the Armed Forces covenant.
“That meant they had to appoint an armed forces and veterans champion and hold the flag-raising ceremony annually.
“My role is to keep awareness of veterans and forces matters at the forefront of our officers and councillors’ minds.
“This year, we’ve invited local cadets to attend the ceremony, along with the Lord Leiutenant, and we’ll also have a piper for the first time this year too.
“It’s a way for the council, its officers and members to show respect for what our armed forces are currently doing and what veterans have done for us in the past.”
When John learned about the new weapon in Poppyscotland’s armoury, he also made moves to enlist its help in this year’s Armed Forces Week celebrations.
Bud is an 18 tonne truck which serves as a mobile museum and education centre, telling the story of Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory as well as the veterans who make Scotland’s five million poppies every year.
John said: “When I read about this new venture by Poppyscotland, it was straight on my hit list!
“Armed Forces Week runs from June 24 to June 29 and I thought it would fit in nicely if we could get Bud to visit the Borders that week.
“I sent a tongue and cheek email off and got a reply almost immediately!”
John was delighted to discover Bud was available and next week it will be making its way to a number of local schools.
On Tuesday, June 25, Bud will be based at Peebles High School; on Wednesday, June 26, he will move to Galashiels Academy and on Thursday, June 27, he will visit Berwickshire High School.
Pupils at the secondary schools, as well as children at their feeder primaries, will be given a chance to tour the interactive truck.
John said: “Children see poppies and wreaths once a year but don’t get a true sense of where they came from, who made them and what they mean.
“I think it’s important that they learn the poppy story and Bud offers an ideal opportunity to do that.
“Youngsters will also be able to find out more about the men and women – all veterans – who make our poppies.
“And it will give them a chance to find out more about how Poppyscotland uses the money raised from the annual poppy campaign to help veterans in Scotland.”
In addition to being the council’s equalities champion and Men’s Shed champion, it’s clear John takes his veterans role seriously.
That includes visiting the four veterans breakfast clubs in Duns, Hawick, Coldstream and Galashiels.
“We’re hoping to set up another club in Kelso but that’s at the very early stages at the moment,” said John.
He also takes time out to visit Veterans First Point in Galashiels, even though it’s a “bit of a trek” from home.
It’s clear that an executive position, behind a desk, is one ambition this councillor does not hanker after.
Explaining why, John added: “When I was given my champions’ roles, I wanted to be as proactive as possible.
“I’d rather be out and about meeting and helping people than be stuck at a desk in an office.
“I thoroughly enjoy it and I try to be as proactive as I possibly can.”