June 2019 is turning out to be a month of military commemorations. We’ve just had the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, or D-Day as it is more commonly known, on 6th Jun
D-Day was a major turning point in the Second World War leading to the eventual defeat of Hitler and the Nazis. It was, and remains, the most ambitious and extensive seaborne invasion in history and we owe a debt of gratitude to all those who played their part in securing our continent’s freedom from tyranny and evil.
Those amazing people, from resistance fighters in Europe through to the brave personnel of the Allied Forces should all be remembered at this time, as should all the victims of the conflict. But that generation isn’t just owed our thanks for their sacrifices and military service; those who returned are also the generation that went on to built the peace out of the ravages of war.
Towards the end of the month, on 29 June, we will gather at the annual Armed Forces Day event in Denton’s Victoria Park.
This is a lovely family fun day, with entertainment, stalls and displays for all ages. It isn’t just a run-of-the-mill council event; it’s our chance to say our ‘thank yous’ to currently serving as well as past military personnel, but have fun in the process.
Unlike 11 November, it’s not about a solemn act of remembrance for the fallen (important though it is to never forget the ultimate sacrifices given), but, rather, it is our chance to show gratitude to those who served and who returned, as well as to thank those who serve in our armed forces today.
But, amongst the fun of Armed Forces Day, we should also resolve that those who serve are shown our appreciation at all times, and not just on one particular day of the year. That’s why the Military Covenant is so important.
The Covenant is promise by the nation – and local communities – ensuring that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly in accessing public services and support from public organisations, the NHS, government, businesses and charities.
Tameside was among the first areas to sign the Covenant and I’m proud of that fact. But many who’ve served still aren’t aware of the services available to them, or the support networks that are in place. From mental health services, to housing support; employment advice to social care; family help to social networking, there’s an organisation out there pledged to helping those with a military record.
And yes, there’s more that needs to be done at all levels of government to ensure the Covenant is developed and strengthened. I recently met with Royal British Legion in Manchester to discuss how this can be achieved. I will certainly be taking the challenge up in Parliament in my role as Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
I’ll maybe see you in Victoria Park on 29 June. But whether you’re able to make the event or not, let’s pledge to ensure our community here in Tameside properly support our former and current armed forces personnel when they need our help. That’s the best way we, as a community, can say thank you to them.
And for anyone looking for information about the support available here in Tameside, there’s a fantastic not-for-profit community organisation called Tameside Armed Services Community. To join TASC ring 0161 342 4080 or visit www.tamesideasc.org