2011/06/25 - Armed Forces Day

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Speech delivered by Under Secretary of State at Lingfield Park Racecourse, Surrey on Saturday 25 June 2011.

Deputy Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff, Chairman of Tandridge DC, President of Surrey RBL, Chairman of Surrey RBL, Canon Peter, thank you Peter for those kind words.

It’s an honour to be here at Lingfield Park Racecourse to celebrate Armed Forces Day.

With members of our Armed Forces who represent the very best that this country stands for.

With their friends and family.

And with veterans whose service we will never forget and always honour.

I particularly want to mention the Royal Anglians by name.

I congratulate them on their turn out.

They are based in Pirbright, Surrey and will be going out on their second tour of duty to Afghanistan early in the New Year, and I wish them the best of good fortune.

This is the day when the rest of us can show our patriotic support for all these heroes, and their outstanding contribution to this country.

Because in this country, the respect we have for our Armed Forces is deeply embedded in our national make-up.

I grew up learning about my father’s service in the Army, just as he grew up learning about his father’s service in the First World War.

There are few families who are not touched in some way by our Armed Forces - even simply by taking pride in the work they do to defend us.

And what all of us recognise - and what links the generations - is that those who serve stand for honour and sacrifice; they put themselves after others; their country before self.

The South East of England has a proud military tradition.

Portsmouth is the historic home of the Royal Navy.

Aldershot is the home of the British Army.

The skies above the South-East were our front-line during the Battle of Britain.

Today, many of those from all three Services in the South-East are on the front-line once more - in operational theatres worldwide, often in difficult and dangerous conditions.

So behind the flags, parades, and other events up and down the country to mark Armed Forces Day, we should remember that, as we speak, in this country and overseas, these brave people are putting their lives on the line - on the ground, in the air, and on the oceans - to keep us safe and to build a better world for our children.

We must also remember that each one of our soldiers, sailors, and airmen is also a wife or a husband; a father; a mother; a son or a daughter.

They do not choose this vocation for an easy life, and the pressure on their families is considerable.

I want to thank all those who support their loved ones in the Armed Forces - through good times and bad.

And let’s not forget that 15% of today’s Armed Forces are Reservists who, time after time, have come to Britain’s aid, and remain integral to the future of Britain’s Defence.

Nor should we forget the Cadets, or the adult volunteers behind them to show the virtue of commitment and the rewards of success as our youngsters prepare for life as responsible citizens.

Of course, those serving in our Armed Forces will one day move into the larger family of veterans.

Armed Forces Day is a celebration of our veterans’ community too, whatever their age.

This means everyone from the 20 and 30 year-olds who have returned from operations in Afghanistan in their prime of life and are seeking new challenges, to the older veterans who are part of our nation’s living history.

They all have so much to offer.

And they are a constant reminder to younger generations that preserving our way of life and the things we hold most dear is sometimes hard won, and never guaranteed.

One of the marks of any civilised nation is the way it supports and respects those who fight for their country, and their families.

They are an integral part of who we are as a nation, and an inspiration to us all.

Let us honour that commitment by showing our support today.