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.
From evacuee in London at 11 years old, boarding a train to Sussex, adapting to civilian life, being fitted with artificial knees and walking the Great Wall of China with Queen Victoria's Great Granddaughter and raising over £20,000 to support the armed forces and their families. It is safe to say Norman Young, (Brigham) is an achiever, focused and determined individual.
The bottom line for us is providing support - support for those who have done or are doing their bit for our country, and their families, making sure that when they are in need, we are there for them. They have made their selfless contribution and the least that we can do is be there for them in return.
The Admirals would be better employed to argue that issue and the dwindling Navy fleet as a whole rather than engage in counter-productive political sorties. The latter are becoming a bad habit in London: the more it catches on the narrower the gap between No and Yes in the opinion polls pre-September 18.