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Wearing a Poppy Is Not a Comment on Politics or Military Intervention

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The poppy a symbol of remembrance and the Annual Poppy Appeal raises money to give practical help to men and women who have served in the Forces, and to their widows and dependants.

Both the poppy factory in Richmond and the Scottish poppy factory are active employers of disabled ex-service personnel. I have had the honour of visiting both of them and watching individual poppies and wreaths being made. The money generated by the appeal is used, among other things, to help support injured veterans and their families.

Wearing a poppy is not a comment on politics or military intervention. I doubt that everyone who wears a poppy agrees with all aspects of British foreign and military policy dating back to the first ever Poppy Day in 1921. If you object to British foreign policy, about the worst way you could express that is in a decision not to wear a poppy, because that decision only impacts on some of those who face consequences of the policy - whether or not they agree with it - not on those of us who are actually responsible for the decisions.

That's why Huffington Post UK blogger Madeleine Fry is wrong to give the impression that the men and women who volunteer to protect our country decide or endorse British foreign and military policy. Our service personnel carry out whatever is asked of them without question, because that's their job. And certainly the vast majority of those who are injured or killed were never asked their opinion about whether or not the military intervention they were engaged in was right or just.

Our armed forces do a vitally important job in keeping us safe here in the UK, but also for peace and security around the world. A new generation of men and women have fought hard and dangerous frontline battles, it is not jingoism to reflect on that, it is reality. But it is worth bearing in mind that our forces are deployed not only into conflict but to prevent it in peacekeeping roles and in disaster relief projects and to train security forces in other countries to combat terrorism and extremist threats, to prevent manageable threats becoming full scale conflicts.

Very early in the Iraq and Afghanistan interventions, those who disagreed with those actions, including politicians, made very clear that it was possible to support our forces and their families at the same time as disagreeing with the political decision to enter into those two conflicts. That's a sensible, respectable and principled position.

The Armed Forces Covenant was strengthened in 2011 when MPs wrote the principles of the Covenant into law. It reflects the moral obligation between the nation, the state and the armed forces and their families, it is about how they should expect to be treated because of the unique nature of what we ask them to do. The covenant underlines the recognition of the impact of service life, which can range from spending long periods away from your family, missing birthdays and Christmas, through to those who are injured, physically or mentally, and of course those who very sadly, don't come home.

That is why millions of us wear a poppy and why we will fall silent on Remembrance Sunday, to pay tribute to the men and women from communities right across the country who have made the ultimate sacrifice. We remember that their sacrifice ensured that we and many others around the world are free to put our different views forward, even on the wearing of a poppy.

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