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Sudbury Irish Regiment officers enjoy Prince Charles' 70th birthday party

Col. Valtonen and honourary col. McCormick attend garden party at Buckingham Palace

Members of Sudbury's Irish Regiment had a brush with royalty recently as they were on the guest list to attend the 70th birthday patronage celebration for Prince Charles on May 22.

While Charles' birthday isn't actually until Nov. 14, the celebration was held six months in advance to take advantage of the weather and to kick off a celebration that is expected to last through until the end of the year.

In attendance were more than 5,000 people, including the Royals, at a garden party on the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Representatives from the more than 380 charities that Prince Charles supports were in attendance, along with members of a wide breadth of military units from within the commonwealth, including Sudbury's Irish Regiment.

Kevin McCormick is the honourary colonel of the Sudbury Irish Regiment, and was in attendance for the celebration, along with Greater Sudbury Police Inspector John Valtonen, who serves as colonel of the regiment.

It was the first time on the historic grounds of Buckinham Palace for both men, though McCormick had been close by on a previous occasion.

"I had seen it through the gates," said McCormick with a laugh. "But being in there and seeing it up close was a really unique experience."

Valtonen was impressed by both the expansive grounds and the way that Prince Charles and the members of the royal family in attendance carried themselves.

"It didn't feel like there were 5,000 people there, it was only crowded when Prince Charles was walking around talking to people because all you had to do was look for a crowd of people with their phones out," said Valtonen.

"They're very personable and gracious people, you can tell that Prince Charles really values all of the organizations that he's involved with. For him to take the time to greet people and talk to them is a testament to his commitment to the community."

The celebration gave McCormick and Valtonen the opportunity to meet and mingle with members of other regiments from around the world and share their stories.

"It had a real family feel to it," said Valtonen.

McCormick was part of a select group that was invited inside the palace itself for the royal photo and was standing just a few rows back from Prince Harry and his new wife, Meaghan Markle.

"It's an inspiring place, it just breathes history when you're walking through the halls," said McCormick. "People kind of had to be reminded that it is still someone's home because they were taking their phones out trying to take pictures."

The opportunity to meet with members of their sister units and other reservists from across the globe was one that Valtonen says he'll cherish for years to come.

"There's so much commonality between people who serve in these regiments, these are all people who are balancing their jobs and their time with the service," said Valtonen. "You can tell that there is a deep respect and affection among all of us for the role that the royals have."

While the celebration of Prince Charles' 70th birthday was an experience neither men will soon forget, there was another celebration going on while the two were in England that had the eyes of the world on it, the royal wedding.

Neither McCormick or Valtonen got up close to the wedding itself, but McCormick says there was a definite buzz in the air similar to when Team Canada plays for a gold medal in Olympic hockey.

"Even if people weren't talking about it, you could feel there was a buzz and everyone knew what was going on," said McCormick. "The extent of coverage on television is incredible, they had an hour long broadcast breaking down people's body language."

Fans of the royals or not, it was hard not to get caught up in the wedding in one way or another, said Valtonen.

"Like anything, there's people who don't really follow the royals, but it's such a big event that it's nearly impossible not to know what's going on, it's everywhere," he said.

The six-day trip culminated with the 70th birthday patronage celebration, an experience that both men are appreciative to have attended, along with members of the Sudbury Irish Regiment.

"It's very significant that our soldiers got to see and experience this," said Valtonen. "It's an experience that they'll be able to take with them and never forget."


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