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Ian Gossip: Our armed forces protect us 365 days a year – time to take just one and say thank you

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I say it to the driver as I leave the bus, I say it to my dentist as I get out of the chair – even after an arduous experience – and I am happy to wave it when a fellow motorist helps me through a junction. Thank you, thanks, merci, gracias – whatever term you use to acknowledge help and assistance.

And that, in a nutshell, is what Armed Forces Day is about.

Observed annually on the last Saturday in June, it offers local communities the opportunity to show support and gratitude to the men and women who have served or who are currently serving in our armed forces, and to their respective families.

Reservists – those who give up their spare time to serve in the various branches of the reserve forces – are also remembered throughout the week.

Ian Gossip

Each year a different city hosts the national event. In 2018 it was held in Llandundo, tomorrow Salisbury and next year Scarborough.

Bids for the 2021 national event will be open between early December and mid-March 2020. Aberdeen Inspired, are you reading this?!

To make that even a possibility however, we need to demonstrate our commitment to the cause. It means making sure supporters line the streets tomorrow to cheer on our troops as they parade through the town.

In Aberdeen, the parade goes from Albyn Place to the Castlegate and there will be serving forces personnel, veterans associations, cadets and youth organisations. A similar event will be held in Inverness.

Recent commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the First World War centenary, mean the sacrifices our troops have made historically are at the very forefront of the nation’s minds – not least those of the Highland regiments in those and other conflicts over the centuries.

But recent research from SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity, has revealed the general public has little perception of the duties our modern day military personnel are presently undertaking.

The study showed 52% of respondents were unaware that the UK military has not been in active conflict for in excess of four years, while 16% incorrectly believed the majority of the armed forces are still in Afghanistan. From these responses it would seem clear that the forces community has a story to tell which could considerably aid the knowledge and understanding of the civilian in the street.

Correcting these anomalies, telling the 2019 story and painting the 2020 vision might let some people see that there is a real career path for them within the armed forces. With over 190,000 serving members including reservists and Gurkhas all working to promote and celebrate the serving community, the modern military has a vast infrastructure that embraces the existence of the forces community and much more, such as logistics, healthcare and education in addition to of course the national defence effort.

In this area we have a strong history and proud record of supporting the three services both in peacetime and at times of conflict. RAF Lossiemouth is one of the Quick Reaction Alert Stations tasked with policing UK airspace as well as supporting operations worldwide. Its importance will only grow in the coming years with the arrival of the P-8 Poseidon squadron. Around 1,000 extra military and civilian posts are expected to be created as part of the £400million expansion.

Then there is the Faslane base, home of the Submarine Service and the new generation of hunter-killer submarines. Moving south to Leuchars Station in Fife, we have on the previous RAF base, the HQ for the Army. In Aberdeen at Gordon Barracks we have a number of units that undertake service related training and exercises with this activity being replicated in other such centres throughout Scotland.

On Armed Forces Day, SSAFA is asking for the nation to recognise and give thanks to the armed forces for their work for us – not in glorification of war, but marking the commitment and sacrifice of those who have served and are serving presently.When we remember D-Day, it is interesting to reflect that SSAFA was there then, as now, to offer practical and tangible help to serving personnel, veterans and their families.

There are more than 90 SSAFA branches in the UK and abroad, predominantly staffed by trained volunteers who are all tasked with providing a high level of professional, compassionate and skilled practical help.

Hopefully you will find time to show your support this Armed Forces Week by attending the local events near to you, as doing so provides a valuable morale boost for the troops and their families.

In the warm sun of Brisbane in 2015, I witnessed their pretty spectacular Anzac Day parade – a real crowd-stopper which brought the general public and tourists out in their droves. I saw pride in the demeanour of the Australian public in relation to their wartime efforts.

Tomorrow, let’s better my Down Under experience and turn out in our thousands to show our support – and thanks.

Ian Gossip is secretary of  SSAFA – The Armed Forces Charity, Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Branch

To find out more about SSAFA’s work, or to get involved, e-mail aberdeen.branch@ssafa.org.uk

 

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