Armed Forces Day 2019
Armed Forces Day is a chance to show our support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community: from currently serving troops to Service families, veterans and cadets.
It is wonderful to have a day which recognises the hard work, bravery and commitment of the forces community but we must ensure that our Armed Forces are getting a fair deal on pay, welfare, housing and services.
Following the Centenary of the Great War, we very quickly approach the anniversaries connected to the Second World War. Seaham remains at the forefront of celebrating and commemorating our service.
Earlier this month, the community marked the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings, with a service at the Terrace Green Cenotaph. It is testament to the respect our community has for our Armed Forces that so many people turned out and stopped to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.
Armed Forces Day is also an opportunity to support our Armed Forces charities and community groups, such as local group Seaham Remember them Fund, campaigning to honour our war dead through the restoration of the Town Park War Memorial and commemorating our service personnel through fitting tributes across Seaham.
Our oldest Armed Forces charity, SSAFA, the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association, are supporting our local veterans through the excellent leadership of Brian West, Secretary of County Durham SSAFA, and our SSAFA Reps, Laurence Williams and Bill Morrow.
In the aftermath of the Great War, the Royal British Legion was founded and remain custodians of the icon poppy appeal, raising millions each and every year to support our troops.
Today there are new charities Help For Heroes, Forward Assist and Homeless Heroes.
We owe our Armed Forces a debt of honour for their service and sacrifice. Our region has readily heeded the call to service, and today historically remains one of the largest recruitment areas for our Armed Forces.
East Durham has a proud history and is the home of three Victoria Cross recipients, the highest military honour for Valour. Last year, the local Armed Forces Community came together to honour 100 years since William McNally was awarded the VC, a man whose multiple acts of bravery in the First World War could have warranted multiple VC awards.
We also have Dennis Donnini, the youngest VC recipient of the Second World War, who made the ultimate sacrifice when protecting his comrades under fire. The Armed Forces community will honour the 75th Anniversary of Dennis Donnini’s heroic action next year.
And Seaham has our own VC, Corporal Charles Anderson, who received the Victoria Cross in 1858, just two years after its inception in 1856. Corporal Anderson passed away in 1899 and is buried in the Princess Road Cemetery. I feel we should do more to remember and honour our history, our community, our people.
It is impossible to describe the debt of gratitude we owe to our Armed Forces, as without their sacrifice we would not have the freedom and security which we all too often take for granted. Armed Forces Day provides us an opportunity to remember.
When discussing our Armed Forces we often hear the words “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”, emphasising the solidarity between soldiers, however, as a civilian I think of the words of another Shakespeare quote “I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks”, when highlighting my appreciation of our Armed Forces.