WHEN we pin on our poppies ahead of Remembrance Sunday, who do we picture?
Research by the Royal British Legion has shown that almost two thirds of British people only associate the Remembrance poppy with the two World Wars and elderly veterans – but there are thousands of younger former and current Service personnel also in need of support, and this week I have been highlighting the challenges facing this new generation of veterans.
I was proud to secure and lead a timely parliamentary debate on Tuesday (November 8) with cross-party backing, to raise awareness of those involved in more recent conflicts – in line with the RBL’s 2016 campaign asking the nation to Rethink Remembrance by recognising the sacrifices made not just by the Armed Forces of the past, but by today’s generation too – and to talk about local veterans I have met and some of the great local charities in Cardiff and Penarth.
This year I have visited the Normandy beaches, have laid my own tributes to the brave Welsh at Mametz Wood in the Somme, attended local commemorations in Penarth for the pilots of the RAF in the Battle of Britain, and paid my respects to the courage of our Royal and Merchant Naval veterans in Cardiff Bay.
But now in this year’s time of remembrance, how many of us will think of our former peacekeepers in Bosnia, our soldiers marching across the bleak moors of the Falklands, our Army medics treating casualties in Afghanistan or Iraq, or those who brave the skies today in operations over Syria and Iraq or the waters off the Horn of Africa?
We will always remember and rightly honour the fallen and the veterans of World Wars I and II and their incredible sacrifice – but as time moves on we must also rethink the common perceptions about veterans.
More than 12,000 British Servicemen and women have been killed or injured since 1945, and many thousands of younger veterans of recent conflicts and global operations need support as they face modern challenges.
The RBL and other forces charities like SSAFA and Help for Heroes, as well as many local community organisations, provide amazing support to individuals and families from across the generations of our Armed Forces community. I spent a year with the Legion through its ‘Journeys’ programme, learning about the work they are doing to support a new generation of veterans, and met a number of remarkable men and women they have supported, as well as visiting their new network of Pop-in centres like the one in Cardiff.
The debate on Tuesday aimed to raise awareness of the new generation of veterans – who right now may be facing real challenges adjusting to life after leaving the forces, or experiencing problems with their physical or mental health, housing or employment.
It’s so important that people understand that Remembrance is not only about the huge past sacrifices of WW1 and WW2, but also those made by a whole new generation of brave and hard-working men and women.
- The full transcript of Tuesday’s debate can be found here.
- More about the “Rethink Remembrance” campaign can be found here.