This Saturday our hospitality and leisure businesses will reopen. People will visit our pubs, bars and restaurants, and families can visit playgrounds again. I’ll be out and about, as I was when shops re-opened, to speak to business owners, see the steps taken to get Covid-Secure, and encourage people to support our locals.
But I want to use this column not to look just at this coming Saturday but to look back to last Saturday – the 27th June. Because that day was our Armed Forces Day and anyone walking past my office will have seen the flags I put up for it.
It is a day when we recognise the enormous contribution that our armed forces make. From veterans and the local cadets, to the serving personnel and reservists. This is not about solemn remembrance, as armistice day is, but about celebration.
Normally this would be done properly with a full day of events across the country but this year, as with so many other events, we weren’t able to. But it’s important we don’t let it pass without recognition.
Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic the armed forces have done what they always do, step up to the plate and supported our national effort. Over 3,000 reservists have taken a step back from their day-jobs and been mobilised to provide their specialist skills where we need it, joining their regular counterparts. From engineers and doctors to logistics experts.
Without their expertise we wouldn’t have been able to deliver the NHS Nightingale Hospitals across the country which provided reassurance to the NHS that there was a secure medical resource there should they need it. Mobile Testing Units which are vital in providing localised testing sites are all run by military teams working with the NHS. And when we needed to get vital PPE to the frontline the armed forces stepped in and demonstrated their world-class ability to get logistics flowing.
The cadet forces also play a vital role in our national life, and those who follow me on Facebook will have seen a photo I posted last week of me whilst in the cadets many years ago. I know from my time as a cadet that the opportunities it opens are unrivalled, from mountaineering to adventure sports. Whilst many who join the cadets go on to bright and successful careers in the armed forces, many don’t. It isn’t a recruitment ground for them but a way to bring young people of varying backgrounds together; teaching the core ethos of what service means – respect, courage, discipline, commitment, integrity and loyalty. And doing it in a way which is enjoyable. I will always be grateful for the years I spent as a cadet and I would encourage everyone to give it a try.
Veterans are also recognised on Armed Forces Day. Those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and those who have now joined civilian life. In Burnley and Padiham we are fortunate to have a vibrant community of veterans who look after each other and often go above and beyond to make a difference in the wider community. They are supported by a wealth of local organisations including VIC and BFC in the Community.
So, to all those who form part of the armed forces family, past and present, thank you.