Armed Forces Day
The Armed Forces play a pivotal role in our national life. No one could have missed the essential place the armed forces have in national events such as the recent Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It is therefore only right that the contribution of those who have served their country, and those who continue to serve, is recognised.
Veterans Day was first introduced in 2006 and, having been renamed Armed Forces Day in 2009 to mark the contribution of those who are currently serving, gives every community the opportunity to pause, reflect and be grateful to those who serve, and honour the memory of those who have fallen.
Those who serve in our armed forces are unique. They give up certain rights in order to serve our country. Taking a career in the armed forces means that they give up their civil liberties to follow orders, orders which may lead them to place themselves in harm’s way.
The Royal British Legion are to be commended for all the work they do on behalf of those who are injured in battle and also advancing the needs of the families of service personnel. Ian Forsyth MBE in particular continues to serve with great distinction in the Hamilton branch locally.
The Royal British Legion led the campaign to have the Military Covenant enshrined in law. With the support of Labour and other parties, the Armed Forces Act 2011 made it law for the Secretary of State for Defence to have to report each year to Parliament on the effects that membership or former membership of the armed forces has on service personnel in terms of access to housing, education and healthcare.
Like many other politicians in South Lanarkshire I will be attending the Flag Raising ceremony at the Headquarters of South Lanarkshire Council. It is fitting that this should be the focus of commemoration in South Lanarkshire as the Council plays a very key role in ensuring that armed forces personnel have access to the key areas mentioned above. Councillor Jim Handibode, who himself served in Malaya, is an assiduous champion for veterans in the Council. I am pleased that the Council, recognising its responsibilities in housing, changed its housing allocation policy two years ago, to ensure that ex armed forces personnel are queued within the Urgent Housing Need list. This is just one example of putting the military covenant into practice.
It is simply unbelievable and unacceptable that service personnel suffer forms of discrimination. One in five members of the Forces said that they had experienced strangers shouting abuse at them while wearing their uniform. Nearly one in twenty said they had experienced violence or attempted violence. 18% reported that they had been refused service in hotels, pubs or elsewhere. If necessary we should consider the introduction of new legal rights to ensure that such discrimination is brought to an end.
However it would be a disservice to all those who have given their lives in defence of our country if we did not, as policy makers, do everything in our power to make sure that those in our armed forces are well equipped when serving, and are given the right support and advice when they leave the armed forces.
Our servicemen and women who have fallen, and their families too, deserve nothing less.
Tom Greatrex MP