Gale's view - 16th November 2011

Last week one of my local shops was displaying a tray of poppies.  Alongside it was a notice that read “If you find these poppies offensive please turn around and walk out. We do not wish to serve you and we are proud to support our armed forces through the work of the Royal British Legion”.
 
Blunt, to the point and in sharp contrast to some national chains of emporia that have, I understand, refused  to sell poppies or to allow their store staff to wear them “for fear of causing offence”.  I trust that those who have been offended by this attitude will cease to patronise those shops.
 
And while we are on the subject, is it not high time that a very clear message was sent to the less than attractive fatcats that run FIFA to the effect that their number is up?  Okay, they climbed down in the end and “allowed” the English football team to wear poppies on black armbands but should it really have taken the intervention of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and a future Heir to the Throne to bring about this grudging change of heart? This is not an issue that ought to be  be allowed to be brushed under the carpet.
 
Last Sunday we remembered those who have given their lives in the course of two world wars, and in many subsequent conflicts, in the service of our Country.  We will remember them, not just on November 11th or on Remembrance Sunday but on every other day of every year also, as their own families have to live, daily, with the consequences of their sacrifice.
 
This might be an appropriate time, after Remembrance Sunday and in the run-up to Christmas, to remind ourselves that we should also spare a thought for those, and the families of those, who serve away from home and who while doing so  take great risks  throughout their tours of duty.
 
In February of this year the RAF received a request for assistance. Within twenty-four hours more than four hundred “entitled personnel” and one dog were extricated from a remote part of Libya prior to the later conflict in which, following the UN resolution, our forces were subsequently to become involved.  A month later Typhoon aircraft were leaving UK airfields , participating in operations and returning to base within 24 hours for the first time since the Second World War.. Subsequently, many of those aircraft were stationed in Italy, flying sorties designed to help to prevent a genocide.
 
At a time when it has become fashionable to ridicule the Italians it is worth noting that our airmen, in need, regarded them as professional hosts who behaved with good grace during the disruption of their own facilities and supplies and that they deserve our thanks for the contribution to a British military effort that, in the air and at sea, was concluded without collateral damage and without casualties.
 
Throughout this operation, as with all others, their families , back home, were supported by their schools, by the padres and, of course, by the service charities that play such a prominent role in their welfare.
 
It is right to pay tribute to the fallen. It is right to  seek to provide generously  for those who have suffered hideous trauma. It must also be right to think of those who are left behind, waiting.  Whether their men and their women have been  in the skies over Libya, or in Afghanistan, or in Iraq, or in any one of a number of overseas postings around the world, those back at home  make their own silent contribution to our defence and they deserve our thoughts and our appreciation also.  That is why the work of the Royal British Legion, SSAFA, Help for Heroes and many others is so important.  A serviceman is for life, not just for Remembrance Day..

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