Recently I joined the Mayor of Barnsley in the town centre to celebrate the countless servicemen and women who display exceptional bravery, dedication and professionalism in serving their country.
Unlike my brilliant fellow Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis, I have never served in the armed forces.
But as someone who worked in the Ministry of Defence before being elected, and whose first parliamentary role was as shadow defence minister, I have worked alongside many military personnel and I have a strong sense of admiration for their selfless commitment to keeping our country safe.
Barnsley has a lot to be proud of when it comes to honouring our borough’s contribution to our armed service. Only last month, I joined a delegation of Barnsley leaders on a visit to France, where we paid tribute to the Barnsley Pals, the thousands of brave men who marched off to war from every walk of life in Barnsley, leaving wives, children, parents and loved ones. So many never returned.
So this year, as we mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, Armed Forces Day is particularly poignant.
And as we saw very recently this year also marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
We will remember all those who fought and died in both the First and Second World Wars, as well as all those who served in the many conflicts that have followed.
But Armed Forces Day, which was introduced by the last Labour government in 2006 as Veteran’s Day, is not just about remembering the sacrifices made in the past by our servicemen and women.
It is also about paying tribute to all those serving in our forces today.
It is about promising to do everything we can as a nation to support them and their families, as well as looking after our veterans.
That’s why it’s great that Barnsley Council has embraced the spirit of Armed Forces Day well and have appointed a veteran’s champion, councillor Joe Hayward, whose role it is to help service leavers resettle in to civilian life, providing a ‘one-stop shop’ for those returning post-service and ensuring that veterans have access to entitlements and services.
Since its launch, Armed Forces Day has gone from strength-to-strength, and it is a credit to organisations such as the Royal British Legion, of which I am a proud member of the Hoyland and District Branch in Barnsley. They work extremely hard to put the event
ogether, aside from their vital role of supporting former servicemen and women who sometimes face severe difficulties.
Our service men and women make us proud.