Armed Forces Day – It is right that we should pay tribute to our Armed Forces for all that they do
In the first of a series of exclusive articles for Endeavour Public Affairs to mark Armed Forces Day, which takes place on Saturday 29 June, James Gray MP states that our Armed Forces do a tremendous job, a job which we civvies could not imagine doing ourselves. He concludes that it is right and proper that on occasions like Armed Forces Day, we whose security and safety is guaranteed by these wonderful young people should pay tribute to them for all they do.
James Gray is the Conservative MP for North Wiltshire and is Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces. His military service includes seven years in the Honourable Artillery Company (1977-84). He is a graduate of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme and of the Royal College of Defence Studies.
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Our Armed Services routinely do things which no other public servant – no other citizen – would possibly contemplate doing. They are taken away from their families and friends for periods of at least six months, occasionally up to a year. They live in some of the harshest environments in the world – heat, cold, wet. They eat the rations they are given (which, thankfully, are a great deal better these days than of old); they take part in extreme physical challenges carrying huge weight. And that is without even thinking about the fact that they are in constant danger of life and limb.
As the MP for Royal Wootton Bassett I stood with my constituents to pay our respects to most of the 345 flag-draped coffins which were carried down our High Street. On a total of 167 occasions the people of the town turned out in all weathers, often joined by families and regiments, to salute the passing of our fallen heroes. Many times I stood with the families and friends and regimental comrades grieving for their lost brother. They grieved. Yet not once did any of them question why their loved one had died. “He died doing the job he loved” was by far the commonest reaction. He obeyed orders, served Queen and Country. They were heartbroken; but immensely proud of their son, husband, father who had died.
The security of this nation – our ability to be at peace and feel secure on our streets and in our beds – is down to the sacrifices which our Armed Services make. The brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich last month should remind us all of the risks which our Armed Forces take on behalf of us all at home and abroad. Whether it is combating extremist jihadist Moslems in Afghanistan or Iraq; removing Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait, or the Argentinians when they breached British soil in the Falklands; whether it was defending us against the Nazis or in so many other wars and conflicts; whatever they are asked to do, they smartly and unquestioningly turn to the right, salute and march off to their duties.
That is why I am so glad that twice a year as Chairman of Parliament’s All Party Group for the Armed Forces I welcome home 120 soldiers representing the Brigade returning from active service in Theatre of War overseas. Hundreds of staff in Parliament joined me to clap and cheer as the Brigade, led proudly by a Guards Band march through Parliament’s Carriage Gates, and then enter the Palace through the North Door of Westminster Hall, through which the Duke of Wellington passed on his triumphant return from the Battle of Waterloo. It is we in Parliament who sent them to war, and it is only right that we should welcome them home and (with a little help from a kindly sponsoring brewery) thank them and their comrades for all they have done.
We British are hugely proud of the professionalism, dedication to duty, courage, selflessness, and sheer damn determination of our Army, Navy, Air Force, and Royal Marines. The boys and girls do a tremendous job and a job which we civvies could not imagine doing ourselves. It is right and proper that on occasions like the Royal Wootton Bassett repatriation ceremonies, the Welcome Home Parades in Parliament, on Remembrance Sunday or on Armed Forces Day, we whose security and safety is guaranteed by these wonderful young people should pay tribute to them for all they do.
Published: Monday 24 June 2013
© Copyright of Endeavour Public Affairs 2013.
Photograph: © Copyright James Gray MP
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