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Andy James, 49, was at the Atherton Cenotaph in Greater Manchester when the “sick” incident took place on Thursday morning. The veteran – who has served in the Royal Navy for 22 days – was about to observe the two-minute silence when his helmet was swiped from his motorbike.
Mr James saw two men on a moped and believed they were “admiring” his bike, which was decorated with flags and poppies.
But he said moments later the pair snatched his £200 helmet from the handlebars before making their getaway.
The incident meant Mr James – who has completed tours in Bosnia, Serra Leonne and Afghanistan and now serves for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary – missed the two-minute silence.
He told Manchester Evening News: “I thought they were admiring the Beast with its flags and poppies on.
“I only turned around to see if my parents had made it down. Next thing, they’re at the side of it.
“The guy grabs the helmet. I ran across the road but couldn’t catch them. I was livid.
“I was at the Cenotaph paying my respects with fellow veterans and the genuine people of Atherton to fallen brothers and sisters who fought for us.
“Also, for my brothers and sisters who I fought alongside, those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and those who are still paying the price now.
“I was fuming that I missed the silence to reflect.
“One thing that has struck home is that there are great people out there who have offered to buy me a helmet.”
Independent Councillor for the Atherton Ward, Stuart Gerrard, who was next to Mr James when the incident took place, said he is “still seething”.
He said: “By the time we realised, they had gone.
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“Luckily some people have dash-cam footage so we’ve got the registration number.
“We’re hoping they do the right thing and return it.
“You’d never think it would happen in a crowd of people.
“It was just two guys on a moped. It was opportunity thieves. Everyone was in disbelief. Sick.
“We think they rode past it once, clocked it, turned back, went on the footpath and ripped it off the handlebars.
“I’m still seething, really. We’re still very angry.”
The incident has been reported to the police.
Additional reporting by Paige Oldfield
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