On Saturday the 25th of June, the UK will celebrate Armed Forces Day. The day is a chance to celebrate and honour those who serve our country in our forces. For some, though, the day is emotional as they remember those they have lost through service in our military. It can be extremely difficult for some families, friends and professionals to take part in Armed Forces Day and to discuss loss with a child.
It is clear we cannot leave Britain's defence and security in the hands of the EU. A vote to Remain will validate this lie it is the EU which has maintained peace in Europe. Whether or not Trump is elected President in America will not matter in the end. America will see the EU as the future of Europe, and NATO as expensive relic of a bygone age.
When you think of a soldier being wounded, what first springs to mind? A physical injury, scars from the battlefield, an amputation? While these may be more immediately apparent, what many of us likely don't realise is that a significant number of the Armed Forces community are struggling with a burdening wound that's less obvious to the eye - mental illness.
As Prince Harry's Invictus Games were held in Florida this week, the spotlight was thrown once again on the bravery, determination and grit of Britain's armed forces. Back here at home, I had the privilege to meet around a dozen current and former members of the armed forces at an event in Westminster. It follows research from the bank that shows ex-military personnel can face discrimination when looking for work - including being asked at interview if they are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health conditions.
Imagine in a job interview you're asked whether you're planning to stick with your husband, who is serving in the Armed Forces. Imagine as a child you're sent to a different school every 2 years. Imagine you can't get a mobile phone contract, or a loan for a washing machine, or pay for anything by instalments because you don't have a decent enough credit rating. You don't have to imagine it - welcome to the world of the military family...
My experience is that the Armed Forces perform best when working in teams and if a member of the team need a bit of extra help from his or her mates, then that is what happens. At SSAFA we have the same ethos and we will continue to give support to those who are serving, veterans and their families when they most need it. The reason why we do it really is simple - these men and women were there when our country needed them so we will be there for them when they need us.
There is always a comradery between people in the forces, whether you are serving or not but when you leave, you are often separated from that community. Forward Assist reopens that link by providing a fun and relaxed environment that allows you to find confidence in yourself through rediscovering the strengths and skills cultivated in the Army, that were lost in the process of suffering through difficulties associated with the huge life changing step of leaving the forces.
The veteran population of the UK is declining rapidly. In 2005, there were 4.8million veterans in the UK. Today, there are 2.83million, and in 2020 there will be 2.48million. In the face of such significant demographic change, the Armed Forces charity sector will have to evolve in some fundamental ways.
The most important moment I will remember personally, the time the Prince stepped in and told a group of very unhappy soldiers to 'back the f**k off' and leave me alone. The morning Harry had to come to my rescue, word had got round among the other regiment about what had happened between me and one of their own, and a group of angry sergeants wanted my blood - because to them, I was obviously to blame. Harry caught wind of the situation and confronted the older non-commissioned officers, and made, quite clear, that they would be for the high jump if they gave me another second's hassle over the issue - my sexuality.
This Sunday as I stand and hear the sermon, join the prayers and listen to the Last Post, I will be thinking of friends and colleagues with whom I served in Iraq and Afghanistan who did not come home, those whose funerals I attended, and I will be thinking of their families and loved ones for whom Remembrance is such a personal act.
Six weeks ago, I wrote: "We should be in no doubt: we, the West, are back in Iraq." And so it has come to pass. It is difficult to see how it could have been otherwise, once the murderers of Islamic State (or Isis or Isil, take your pick) started killing American and British journalists and aid workers on video. ... We have entered a bizarre Alice in Wonderland world in which Washington, Tehran, Damascus, Riyadh and Doha all seem to be lining up on the same side. The Saudis, Qataris and Emiratis even seem to have deployed some of their own aircraft, which I suppose at least proves that they do know what they're for.
What people might not realise, as I didn't, is housing's direct effect on mental and physical wellbeing. Without a fixed address, no surgeon would consent to perform the operations I desperately needed to move forward. Where could I have gone afterwards to mend? My doctors weren't convinced the sofa of a friend was an appropriate place to get better. And nor were my friends.