This week, a team of British embassy staff and US Wounded Warriors are biking from Paris to London, highlighting the depth of the UK-US defence relationship in full support of the Taskforce for Service Personnel, Veterans and Families initiated by US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron on 25 May 2011.
The team of 12, called Shoulder-to-Shoulder, are joining the Big Battlefield Bike Ride 2013 that is run by UK based charity organisation Help for Heroes. The start of the ride begins with a ceremony before leaving the Eiffel Tower and cycling out of Paris and into the French countryside. Over the next 6 days, the team has the unique opportunity to cycle alongside the wounded, injured and sick and others from allied countries. The 350 mile ride will take the team through significant WWI and WWII sites including those from the Somme and the Battle of Britain. The ride will draw to a close as they meet up with others who will have come from throughout the UK at Blackheath before cycling together through London to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph by 2nd June.
Opportunities such as the bike ride are examples of how the UK and US share an unprecedented defence relationship that has helped secure our shared interests and values since the World Wars of the last century. They have developed unparalleled military interoperability and interconnectedness, working together to meet the challenges of the Cold War, leading in NATO, and fighting side-by-side in defence of global interests. At every level of defence establishments, UK and American servicemen and women train together, learn together, develop capability together and, when called upon, fight together.
Shared military engagements in the past decades have accelerated the strength of shared values and goals where the lives of many individuals and their families’ have been deeply marked by experiences manifested in injuries and illnesses. In caring for these individuals and their families, people, businesses, organisations and national governments alike have responded to the realisation that many solutions lie in working with one another as a whole community. At the national stage, key government figures and organisations have taken this lead.
Increasingly, these parallel efforts and priorities demonstrated the common focus and determination each country had in seeking to provide the best service, care and support. More than ever, both countries began to look to one another as not only close defence allies, but partners in delivering care to the very people who have made possible the alliance and the security it achieves. More than ever, the defence relationship becomes a community of care and support.
A truly bilateral effort, the bike ride has been generously supported by the Allied Forces Foundation, Fisher House and Help for Heroes along with the Office of the Secretary of Defence’s Wounded Warrior Care and Transition, Walter Reed Bethesda Medical Center, and the United States Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment. Companies have also supported, including Astrium, MBDA, Airborne Wireless, BP, Smith & Nephew, Tata, Jaguar Land Rover, Barclays, L3.
The Big Battlefield Bike Ride 2013 began Monday, May 27th in Paris, France and concludes in London, United Kingdom, on Sunday, June 2nd.
Four British embassy staff and personnel are biking with 8 American personnel, including 2 medical support staff.
Ambassador Peter Westmacott hosted a benefit dinner, drawing together a selection of companies who have demonstrated best practices in assisting transitioning and resettling personnel, veterans and their families through support in finding employment. Funds benefit Help for Heroes, Allied Forces Foundation and Fisher House.
The aim of the Taskforce is to share best practices with regard to care for service personnel, veterans, and their families between experts from across government, non-profits and businesses whilst supporting programmes, like sporting and challenge activities, that highlight excellence in recovery.
By bringing together military and government officials, non-profit organisations and the private sector, the British embassy is working to ensure the two nations work together on best practices to aid affected individuals and families from point of wounding, through rehabilitation and recovery, to transition to civilian life and meaningful employment.