We are only able to enjoy our way of life because our armed forces put their lives on the line to protect it. That’s why I was incredibly proud so many turned out for Armed Forces Day over the weekend.
Here in Dover and Deal, we have a special understanding of our armed forces. Over many centuries we have been at the frontline, the gateway to England. This means we know the importance of safety and security – and how military tradition is so vital to us all.
Hundreds attended the Armed Forces Day Drum Head Service and Parade in Deal on Sunday. In the morning people assembled at Deal Pier Apron for the Drum Head Service performance. Afterwards standards, veterans and civic dignities formed up in parade, making their way from the seafront towards the Timeball Tower for the salute. It was a fitting tribute to those who have and continue to serve our nation.
Many have served in Northern Ireland. At the end of last year, I was approached by a constituent who had completed a tour of Belfast in the early seventies. A coroner had contacted him demanding answers to questions about his service of our country all those years ago.
We need to pay proper respect to people who serve our land. These veterans fought bravely against terrorism. They deserve to be honoured. Instead they are harassed in retirement, while the terrorists are free to walk our streets. It’s time to ensure veterans enjoy their old age with the dignity and respect of a grateful nation.
It’s wrong that many of the terrorists they were fighting enjoy amnesty. The same terrorist group that proudly claimed responsibility for the Deal barracks bombing – an atrocity that killed 11 and wounded a further 21. No-one has ever been brought to justice for this appalling crime.
I have pressed ministers at both the Ministry of Defence and the Northern Ireland Office about this. I told them it is a terrible mistake to set up an Historic Investigations Unit to look at the Troubles. Instead we should bring the perpetrators of the heinous bombing to justice.
The memory of this attack is another reason our community is so ready to pay tribute to the armed forces. We know we cannot truly comprehend the heroism and the horror. But we can show how much we support them.
That must include supporting veterans as they battle both the physical and mental scars of conflict. The NHS recently expanded provision, setting up a Veterans’ Complex Treatment Service and providing a wider range of support than ever. Yet we must do even more.
Let us always remember those who have served our nation and those who even today keep us safe and secure. And let us remember them every day of the year.